Jens Stoltenberg made a public apology, Monday, for lack of adequate safeguards and Anders Behring Breivik’s late arrest on 22nd July last year. Praising the government-appointed independent commission for its work at today’s press conference, he reinforced the need to learn whilst still at the helm.
"It's my responsibility to see that this country is safe and that the findings of the report are implemented...however uncomfortable they may be,” said the Prime Minister.
Expectations about what the Commission would address were high. Specifically naming the Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Justice, and security services, the Commission detailed the multi-year debate about barring vehicles from Grubbegata (the main street outside government headquarters).
Jens Stoltenberg declared that the bombing, which killed eight people, “wouldn’t have happened if Grubbegata had been closed off.”
Reiterating what he sees as the need to learn from the report, Stoltenberg stated, “now it’s my responsibility to ensure that improvements are made.”
The Norwegian police were slammed for their actions, with the body’s 10 members saying that they could have arrived at Utøya 12 minutes earlier if officers had followed contingency procedures. Leader Alexandra Bech Gjørv described what they did as "chaotic".
"The Commission has met a police force that has identified changes itself, but which has not done enough to take control of what they can control at their own organisational level," the report, which widely analysed the practises that need to be put in place in the future to be able to deal with another terror attack, states.
Jens Stoltenberg confirmed that he had asked the Commission to provide a report which “gives an honest and completely raw account of the 22nd July”, which is what he received.
The document holds nothing back, with a full chapter on the role of leadership: "leadership has to start at the top," it states in chapter 19.
Reporters questioned the Prime Minister about whether he or members of his cabinet would step down. He answered that “the best way to take responsibility as welcoming, learning from, and acting upon it.”
The Foreigner asked Stoltenberg how he would now use the time now ahead of him to ensure that improvements are made.
“We need to use time efficiently so that we can produce a whitepaper,” he said, giving no clear timeline.
He also declared that, “there was little understanding of the risk of a terror attack” in Norway. Norway is an open and democratic county. We have a dilemma that we will have to live with in the future; that of openness and our own security.”
“Nothing can bring back the family you lost, this report cannot do that, but what it can do is allow us to build a foundation of learning," the PM added. “[My] most important job now is to ensure the safety of the people of Norway. I have now received the report from the Commission that I have asked for. All the facts are on the table and we have to learn from them."
The report also detailed threat level in Norway and the work of the Security Services (PST), as well as weapons and chemicals that were used by the perpetrator.
There was criticism of the PST’s failure to use international contacts and that following through all information was essential. More specifically, this related to that Interpol passed on that Anders Behring Breivik's details of a purchase in Poland under “Operation Global Shield.”
This information had been give to a person at the PST who worked part-time and went on paternity leave shortly after receiving this. Nobody else followed up on the details and this information could have been useful, according to the Committee.
The Commission said both the Security Services and Police Services are more restricted in their operations due to poor technology and their use of it despite receiving NOK 140 million in funding.
In the report are also details about the acute response and care of the Health and Rescue Services. It states that, “health and rescue services managed to take care of the injured people and next of kin...in a satisfactory manner”, despite being overloaded at hospitals in the Oslo and Akerhus area and facing many other challenges.
Also today, Justice Minister Grete Faremo for her part defended the decision to employ Norwegian military helicopters to Afghanistan in 2009. She declared this was one of the problems with lack of helicopter coverage on 22nd July. The police helicopter crew was also on holiday for four weeks at the time of the attacks.
The report states that the effect on Norwegian soil was that "police's access to helicopter support was reduced. The police's own helicopter service experienced reduced availability during the same time period.”
"While the consequences of this shortfall of capacity were acknowledged...they did not trigger any measure to compensate for the shortfall."
Faremo's reply to questions about this was that the "Norwegian Government is open to doing a thorough analysis" of emergency planning. She did not comment on specific unavailability of helicopters on 22nd July, however.
In summary, the findings of the report were that "there is no one single reason or isolation that can explain society's response - neither for what failed or what worked...it is overly simple to just point out the need for more resources and staffing per se.”
Nevertheless, "The attack on the Government Complex on 22 July could have been prevented."
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