UPDATE: US Embassy in surveillance scandal / News / The Foreigner

UPDATE: US Embassy in surveillance scandal. Politicians and authorities are outraged about reports confirming the US Embassy in Oslo systematically spied on Norwegian citizens. The round-the-clock surveillance operation by the group of up to 20 SDU (Surveillance Detection Unit) agents, with service experience from the police, defence, and private security branches, started in the spring of 2000. It was set up to monitor Norwegian citizens whom the US embassy alleges were suspicious, and took place from the sixth floor of a building, known as Handelsbygningen, several hundred metres west of the embassy.

us, embassy, oslo, department, state, simas, security, incident, management, analytics, system, sdu, surveillance, detection, unit, knut, storberget, jonas, gahr, stoere, hallgeir, langeland



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UPDATE: US Embassy in surveillance scandal

Published on Thursday, 4th November, 2010 at 09:24 under the news category, by Michael Sandelson   .
Last Updated on 5th November 2010 at 20:44.

Politicians and authorities are outraged about reports confirming the US Embassy in Oslo systematically spied on Norwegian citizens.

US Embassy, Oslo
US Embassy, Oslo
Photo: © 2009 Kjetil Ree/Wikimedia Commons


Approval

The round-the-clock surveillance operation by the group of up to 20 SDU (Surveillance Detection Unit) agents, with service experience from the police, defence, and private security branches, started in the spring of 2000.

It was set up to monitor Norwegian citizens whom the US embassy alleges were suspicious, and took place from the sixth floor of a building, known as Handelsbygningen, several hundred metres west of the embassy.

The group registered detailed sensitive information about people, as well as making footage. The information was passed on to embassy staff, where it was disseminated and subsequently stored in the worldwide anti-terror SIMAS database, according to TV2.

All SDU’s have to be approved by host countries. Philip J. Crowley, assistant secretary and press spokesperson for the US Department of State in Washington, confirms the operation took place. He also alleges it was in cooperation with Norwegian authorities.

“We cooperate with authorities in the host country to do everything we can to protect our embassies [from terrorist attacks], including Norway,” he says.

Summoned

Following this, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (UD) called in leading US embassy staff to a meeting, and demanded an explanation in connection with the matter yesterday.

“We asked for this meeting to get information about how Norwegian authorities were informed about the [SIMAS, Security Incident Management Analytics System] security programme and what it involves. We are now awaiting an explanation, and will then consider further meetings with the American embassy,” says UD press spokesperson Marte Kopstad.

Norway’s Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, who met the press today, says he wants some answers.

“It was natural for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to contact the American Embassy after the statements issued by the Department of State’s press spokesperson. We have still not received supplementary information.”

‘Disgraceful’

It is rumoured Norwegian police, including the Police Security Service (PST),  knew about the operation.

Bjørn Erik Thon, director of the Data Inspectorate (Datatilsynet) says he was shocked by what TV2 has discovered.

“I have never encountered anything like this before. I think it is extremely serious [both] that this type of thing is happening on Norwegian soil, and that it is Norwegian citizens who are engaged in this type of business. We also regard it as a breach of the Data Protection Act.”

The Centre Party’s (SV) Hallgeir Langeland MP, a member of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Scrutiny and Constitutional Affairs, is outraged.

“I have never heard about this. It is scandalous, not least because the American Embassy is involved. It is also disgraceful that the PST has known about this, without informing us,” he says.

Inquiry

“This must be followed up,” the MP continues, and is joined by Bjørn Erik Thon and Foreign Minister Støre.

Meanwhile, Minister of Justice Knut Storberget, has previously claimed he was not aware of the SDU’s undercover activity. He now says he will be bringing the matter up in Parliament, following exposure by TV2.

“We must get to the bottom of this. I have asked the police director and head of the PST for an explanation. It is important to find out if anything illegal has been committed on Norwegian soil.”




Published on Thursday, 4th November, 2010 at 09:24 under the news category, by Michael Sandelson   .
Last updated on 5th November 2010 at 20:44.

This post has the following tags: us, embassy, oslo, department, state, simas, security, incident, management, analytics, system, sdu, surveillance, detection, unit, knut, storberget, jonas, gahr, stoere, hallgeir, langeland.





  
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