Defence analyst reports on the intelligence failings that led to the deaths of 77 innocent people at the hands of Anders Behring Breivik in Norway last year
This week Norway's intelligence and security services were lambasted for blunders that compounded the country's worst terrorist atrocities. An official report stated that not only could police have prevented the bombing of central Oslo by Anders Behring Breivik, they could also have stopped him more quickly once he went on the rampage at the Labour party's summer camp on the island of Ut°ya.
Last summer I reported for Channel 4 News
in the United Kingdom that the intelligence failure in stopping Breivik's terror attacks was equal to that of the 9/11 attacks in the United States and the 7/7 bombings in the UK. At the time this suggestion was met with surprise and derision in some quarters.
Indeed, the initial international response to the Norwegian attacks, in which 77 people were killed, was to sympathise with the country on the grounds that it was ill-prepared to meet the threat of a lone wolf like Breivik. In reality this was simply not true. The Norwegian Intelligence Service – the NIS, or Etterretningstjenesten – as well as the counter-terrorist unit Beredskaptroppen, clearly failed the Norwegian people. It was self-evident that the authorities, from chief of staff Harald Sunde down, had presided over a major intelligence catastrophe.
In addition, the Norwegian Police Security Service – the Politiets Sikkerhetstjeneste, or PST – which has dedicated counter-terrorism and counter-intelligence units, failed to detect Breivik. Damningly, the 482 page independent report, published following a lawyer-led inquiry, concluded that the PST could have been aware of him well before he launched his attacks in Oslo and Ut°ya on July 22, 2011.
The Ministry of Justice has responsibility for the PST, so is held culpable rather than the National Police Directorate. The latter, though, has also been found wanting. The report notes that the bomb attack in Oslo could have been stopped if security measures already approved had been implemented. For example, the road outside the prime minister' office was not closed to traffic despite this having been recommended seven years earlier.
Likewise, the police – if they had responded sooner and more effectively – could have stopped Breivik earlier. A tip-off in Oslo giving his description was not acted on quickly enough. The police then had a litany of mishaps trying to get to Ut°ya. Crucially it took their Delta force an hour to reach the island, by which time terrible carnage had been wrought by Breivik. Once the attacks had commenced no immediate national alert was issued, no road blocks were set up and no helicopters were mobilised. Breivik was allowed to run amok with impunity.
Anders Breivik's trial comes to an end on August 24. In the meantime Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg is under growing pressure to resign. It was under his watch that Breivik was able to plan and execute the worst mass murders in Norway's history with apparent ease.Anthony Tucker-Jones is a former intelligence analyst and writes as a correspondent for 'intersec - The Journal of International Security' and defencemanagement.com