FECL 49 (December 1996/January 1997):

MINISTER STEPS BACK AFTER NEW SNOOPING SCANDAL

While an independent commission inquiring into extensive illegal surveillance activities of the Norwegian Secret Police, one of its members was himself being investigated by the same Secret Police.

This most recent revelation in the Norwegian snooping scandal has led to the resignation of the responsible minister and the Head of the Secret Police. But at the same time the Government is eagerly preparing Norway’s association with the Schengen countries and their sweeping police and secret service cooperation.

As reported in FECL No. 43 ("Judicial inquiry into Norwegian surveillance police"), an independent commission appointed by the Storting (the Norwegian Parliament), the so-called Lund Commission, recently revealed extensive illegal registration and surveillance by the Secret Police (Politiets overvåkningstjeneste) of a large number of individuals and left-oriented political parties and organisations in Norway. The illegal activities were reported to have taken place from the end of World War II until the late 1980s. The report also revealed extensive secretive and illegal cooperation between the Secret Police and the Social Democratic Party. The Lund Commission’s report created great consternation and alarm in almost all political parties represented in parliament, as well as in the mass media.FECL 56 (December 1998):

 

Secret Police checks East German Stasi files: attempt to discredit the Lund Commission?

In the autumn of 1996, the Control and Constitutional Committee of the parliament held open hearings based on the Lund report, which were also widely reported in the media. In December, the Control Commission of the Secret Services, a new supervisory body appointed by the parliament to control the secret services (earlier, the Control Commission was appointed by the Government) revealed that while the Lund Commission was scrutinising the work and activities of the Secret Police, one of the Commission members, historian and professor Berge Furre, had been the subject of a secret investigation of the Secret Police.

The investigation had been authorised by the prosecution authorities. The Secret Police had been seeking information about Mr Furre in the Stasi archives of former East Germany, and also information about what documents the Lund Commission had been given access to in the archives. Professor Furre, who is known as an outstanding historian of high integrity, was at one time a member of parliament for the Socialist Left Party. After 1966, he had no contact with official East German representatives, only with groups opposed to the regime. In 1983 he participated in a seminar against nuclear weapons in West Berlin. The seminar included a demonstration in East Berlin, which Professor Furre attended. The demonstration was infiltrated by the Stasi, and thus the Stasi obtained information about Furre.

 

Alarm from right to left

The discovery that Professor Furre was being investigated by the Secret Police while a working member of the very commission appointed to scrutinise the Secret Police, gave rise to renewed great consternation and alarm across the political spectrum in the Storting, and was given wide press coverage. In January 1997, it emerged that several other people had been similarly investigated, including the vice-chairman of the Storting’s Control and Constitutional Committee, and the earlier chairman of the Storting’s Justice Committee. Experienced politicians stated that this was the most serious case of conflict they had experienced between a government agency and basic Norwegian state and democratic traditions.

 

Head of the Police Division steps back, becomes Schengen co-ordinator instead

At the time of writing the story has not come to an end, but the Head of the Secret Police, as well as the responsible minister (Ms Grete Faremo, who was minister of Justice at the time, and later minister of Petrol and Energy), quickly had to resign. Officials in the Ministry of Justice had been informed of the investigation, but - allegedly - Professor Furre’s name had been filtered out on its way to the minister. Be that as it may, she was held constitutionally responsible. A high-ranking official in the Ministry of Justice, the Head of the Police Division (the closest Norwegian parallel to the general director of police), also left her office, allegedly of her own free will. Her reason for doing so was that she "had not understood the seriousness and extent of the case in question". Interestingly, she was instead given the task of co-ordinating and leading the development of Norwegian association with Schengen - which plainly requires a less delicate appreciation of such matters. The Social Democratic government, which recently took office under a new Prime Minister (Torbjørn Jagland, who followed Gro Harlem Brundtland) is weakened by the affair. The Government is vulnerable because another newly appointed minister recently had to leave his post due to allegations of shady economic dealings.

Thomas Mathiesen, professor of sociology of law (Oslo)