Justice Minister Anders Anundsen won’t reveal details of the Norwegian authorities’ investigation into suspected illegal surveillance of mobile phone communications. Many questions remained after Anundsen addressed the issue in Parliament this week.
Anundsen was asked to tell Members of Parliament how the government is reacting to newspaper Aftenposten’s recent reports on the suspected presence of false mobile phone base stations in Oslo. The false base stations, also called “IMSI-catchers” or “stingrays,” reportedly can tap into mobile communications and are believed to have been set up around key government offices, embassies, commercial centers and the Parliament itself.
Anundsen, however, wouldn’t say what the authorities know about any false base stations, who set them up or what kind of information may have been captured. He said he couldn’t provide any details because an investigation was underway. He said the investigation itself indicated “that this isn’t a type of surveillance that a court has approved,” or that’s been used by Norwegian authorities.
Asked who is actually responsible for hindering surveillance of mobile phones in Norway, Anundsen relied that the task is “complicated.” If foreign countries are believed to involved, it would be the responsibility of police intelligence unit PST, he said. If it’s organized crime, the police would be responsible, while in general, the state communications authority (Nasjonal Kommunicasjonsmyndighet, formerly Post- og teletilsynet) is reponsible.
He did reveal that PST itself has searched for false base stations over extended periods on earlier occasions, both in and outside Oslo, without finding any.
Anundsen promised Parliament that two working groups are being set up to clarify the lines of responsibility and prevent digital vulnerability. The work will be led by the national communications authority.