The 22 July Sessions of the Norwegian Parliament: Yet Another Cover-Up Exercise to Hide the Failures and Crimes of the Oslo Police

by Reidar Visser

Once more, the Norwegian political system has failed in its attempts to get to the bottom of the 22 July 2011 terror attacks and the question of how police failure played a key role in allowing those deadly attacks to happen. In a series of parliamentary hearings devoted to the independent commission report on 22 July, focus moved to the police on Monday, but no MP took any serious steps towards asking truly critical questions about intelligence failure and failed priorities of the Oslo police during the six final months leading up to the terror attacks.

High officials questioned before parliament during this latest session included former directors and acting directors of the police (Ingelin Killengreen, Øystein Mæland and Vidar Refvik), the former police chief of Oslo (Anstein Gjengedal) and the former the chief of Norway’s CID equivalent Kripos (Odd Reidar Humlegaard, currently acting director of the police). There were some minor admissions of failure relating chiefly to staffing levels and communications on the day of the attack, as well as a tendency of blaming politicians for not giving higher priority to the general disaster preparedness of the police. However, there was no discussion of the serious intelligence failures that prevented the Oslo police from stopping Anders Behring Breivik before he perpetrated the terror attacks. Nor was there any mention of the failed priorities of the organised crime section of the Oslo police, which had a specific responsibility for keeping tabs on political extremism, but instead devoted a considerable portion of their budget in the first half of 2011 on tailing and harassing me in 9 different countries for having engaged in perfectly legal street photography.

The problem with the 22 July debate in Norway is that it has come to focus myopically and ritualistically on a limited set of nuts and bolts issues relating to the technicalities of emergency response on the day of the attack. To the extent that any preventive dimension has been discussed at all, it has focused largely on the secret services of the police (PST) and the question of whether the government complex that was targeted with bombs should have been cordoned off. In this approach there is an underlying belief that the catastrophe couldn’t really have been averted, as summarised in the concluding remarks of former director of police Ingelin Killengreen on Monday: She was content to label the 22 July as a freak tragedy, expressing the hope that if it occurred again, police would be better positioned to cope.

Conversely, questions relating to the failed intelligence of the Oslo police during the run-up to the attacks and their crazy travel activity abroad between March and July 2011 have systematically been excluded from the debate so far.  This constitutes a veritable lacuna in the history of the circumstances of attacks since the Oslo police – which gets its money directly from the Norwegian parliament – has a specific mandate for watching political extremism in Norway’s capital. But in fact, only one of the MPs involved in the hearing on Monday, Trine Skei Grande of the small liberal opposition party Venstre, came even close to touching some raw nerves regarding the Oslo police’s misconduct when she presented a couple of good questions to former police director Killengreen regarding the lack of a whistle blower culture in the Norwegian police. Those questions prompted only a jejune answer from Killengreen.

Of course, the chances that Killengreen would provide a truly informative answer on whistle-blowing issues in the Norwegian police is zero. The sad fact is that through her alliance with Eirik Jensen of the Oslo police, Killengreen has been responsible for creating police units with some of the greatest concentrations of state-sponsored human rights criminals in all of Northern Europe, including most prominently the SO branch (spesielle operasjoner) within the wider organised crime section of the Oslo police. The use of illegal methods in these units is so widespread that the situation is consistent with classical findings in police criminality studies such as Goldschmidt/Anonymous (2008), where clusters of police officers used (and defended) any conceivable illegal method simply because they were convinced their target was “guilty” of something in their own (extra-judicial) understanding of things. Similarly, when it comes to the Oslo police’s organised crime section we are dealing with bad orchards and illegal subcultures rather than individual rotten apples. Unsurprisingly, back in 2003, the Oslo police alongside Killengreen as director of the police fought hard against the changes to the Norwegian penal code that eventually led to a criminalisation of torture, inhuman and other degrading treatment.

In Denmark, the ministry of justice played a key role in purging and ultimately dismantling such bad orchards of the police in the 1990s following a series of scandals involving their disruption squad (uropatrulje) and other criminalised police units (like the Christiania Rangers). However, in Norway, these police units in Oslo are allowed to continue their criminal activities with impunity. Chiefs in the organised crime section in the Oslo police today enjoy a position where they can use their own personal whims and grievances against what they see as “undesirable” individuals to act as jury, judge and executioner and pursue targeted individuals globally with the support of the Norwegian government. This goes on with the tacit support of the Norwegian parliament, whiuch continues to pay for the extravagant activity of the organised crime section of the Oslo police each and every year. So far not a single Norwegian journalist has dared to write truly critical accounts about the crimes of these units.

All of this makes the organised crime unit of the Oslo police a far greater threat to Norwegian democracy and rule of law than terrorist loners can ever be. But perhaps so many people in high places in Norway have already bankrolled these criminals that the chances of getting an early end to their illegalities are limited.

A more detailed account of the intelligence failure of the Oslo police prior to 22 July 2011 is available in Norwegian here.