GOTHENBURG, Sweden—Anders Behring Breivik’s rampage in Norway on July 22, 2011 was a wake-up call for Norwegian and Swedish authorities.
Breivik killed eight when he bombed a government center in Oslo; he killed 69 when he opened fire on a youth camp on the island of Utoya, Norway, later that day. Norway and Sweden are now working together to strengthen counterterrorism efforts, with a particular focus on cooperation and communication between agencies.
The July 22 commission was appointed to review what authorities could have done better on July 22, 2011.
“[The commission] stated that the police and security and intelligence agencies could not have detected Breivik [in advance] regardless,” said Benedicte Bjornland, director of the Norwegian Police Security Service (PST), at a press conference in Oslo on Feb. 18 regarding threats against national security in Norway. “But had they been able to avoid certain clear mistakes, they might have been able to catch him faster.”
Agencies did not cooperate and coordinate well enough with each other, and the police did not use information technology to its full potential, the commission found. Leadership in the respective agencies also failed in some cases to efficiently divide responsibility, set targets, and act on them.
The commission came up with 31 suggestions for improvements, nine of which relate directly to the police. They are mainly related to issues of management, transportation, and communication.
Swedish police have also applied the nine recommendations; although there are some differences between the Norwegian and Swedish forces, the Swedes have nonetheless benefited from the analysis.
Our problem has not been a lack of information, but rather getting salient and time-sensitive information out in a timely manner
—Anders Thornberg, general director, The Swedish Security Service (SAPO)
Bengt Svenson, head of the National Police Board of Sweden also held a press conference on national security on Feb. 18, but in Stockholm, Sweden.
Svenson said that Sweden mostly needs to improve management competence when it comes to major crimes and terrorism. More drills are needed, as well as improved transportation capability, in order to deploy special expertise where it is most needed.
Another important factor in order to prevent future terrorist crimes is collaboration between security agencies. Anders Thornberg, general director of The Swedish Security Service (SAPO), said at the press conference that his agency needs to share intelligence with the regular police in a better way.
“We have had a tendency to be a little too secretive at the Security Service,” Thornberg said. “There may have been a bit of a wet blanket of conspiracy covering our knowledge. We need to make it operative.”
Both the Norwegian and the Swedish Security Service have found that they need to improve their IT support, to come up with a better system for handling information.
“Our problem has not been a lack of information, but rather getting salient and time-sensitive information out in a timely manner,” Thornberg said.
According to Norway’s Minister of Justice Grete Faremo, who also spoke at the Oslo press conference, the biggest threat currently facing Norway is militant Islamism. Extreme right-wing anti-Islamic movements, and extreme left-wing movements, however, are also threats.
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