Norway was hit by the biggest terrorist attack the country has experienced since World War II on 22 July 2011. Terror strikes suddenly and randomly, but it is important not to panic when considering new counter-terrorism measures.
A special commission of investigation has been set up that will present its conclusions next year. It has been tasked to inquire into all aspects of the twin assaults that left 77 dead, and the government response to it. This also includes preparedness and routines within the police system.
With this in mind, I do not want to comment on specific matters regarding of the emergency preparedness before and after the terror attacks, or comment on the investigation of this issue. I will, however, state my opinions about which measures against terrorism we should and should not accept.
In an effort to make society safer, we must avoid panic measures. For example, there is little point in closing the streets around Parliament if the next act is the bombing of an oil platform.
That being said, it is evident that we must not be naïve or passive. We must continue to invest heavily in criminal intelligence, counter-terrorism and other measures; not least, we must have safe and reliable emergency preparedness in the capital, and throughout the country.
Whilst resorting to panic measures is not the answer, we must of course improve our emergency preparedness. In such a long and mountainous country as Norway, this is about combining and coordinating many small, individual units, public services, private initiatives, and voluntary efforts.
The unified message from the Norwegian people, political parties, and government alike has been that the terrorist attacks we experienced on July 22 should not alter our society in any significant way regarding security measures, police methods of investigation, surveillance, or penalties.
Our tradition of unarmed police, strict rules for surveillance and few security measures will not be altered as a consequence of the terrorist attacks.
The Norwegian system of government is based on a high level of trust, few barriers between the people and those elected by them, be it MPs or ministers. I believe the best way to tackle a terrorist attack is to proceed with business as usual, not let the fear of future attacks hamper our daily lives. This means the right of privacy must be respected, and we must not act as if all citizens are potential terrorists.
International co-operation in the fields of criminal intelligence and investigation is crucial; Europol and Interpol are very important in this work. Police forces in different countries must assist one another in measures that prevent terrorism.
The extent to which the terrorist Anders Behring Breivik had contact with right-wing extremists in other countries is something that will emerge during his trial. The Norwegian Police Security Service (PST) is responsible for intercepting and investigating potential threats to Norwegian security, and the current evaluation of this summer’s terror attacks will reveal whether, and, if so, how this work can be improved.
Naturally, we must take the fact there may be an international network of right-wing extremists who are collaborating to plan terrorism very seriously. At present, it appears as though Behring Breivik was acting alone, but there is reason to believe that contact via the Internet and mutual visits may incite specific actions.
I do not believe that a society is safer if it is based on surveillance, distrust, and long maximum sentences. I believe that the best way to create a safe society is to make citizens content by securing a sound labor market, stable economy, high-quality educational system that includes as many people as possible, as well as a social structure that disenfranchises as few as possible.
I am glad, therefore, that the official Norwegian response to 22 July was to answer the attack with more democracy, more freedom and more inclusiveness.
Jenny Klinge, Centre Party (Sp) member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice.
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