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          • Year: 2016
          • Equal representation and independence from party politics leads to impartial work of the Oversight Committee in Norway

          • Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP) is presenting an interview that BCSP Executive Director Predrag Petrovic had with Theo Koritzinsky.

        • BCSP Executive Director Predrag Petrovic talked with Theo Koritzinsky‚ a member of the Norwegian Parliamentary Intelligence Oversight Committee.

          Koritzinsky has broad experience from political life, having been a member of the Norwegian Parliament and the parliamentary assemblies of the Nordic Council and the Council of Europe.

           

           

           

           

          The Norwegian Parliamentary Intelligence Oversight Committee Committee is elected by the Parliament, but still independent from it. It is not an ordinary standing committee that exists within the Parliament, it is an external control body. Are there any advantages?

          Right now, five out of seven members in our Committee have political background, coming from left - the socialist party, labor party; center - liberal party, and from the right - conservative party, and progress party. Four of these five have been either parliamentarians or in Government. Our leader right now is from the liberal party. She has earlier been the minister of defense. By representing different political options in the Committee, we have broad legitimacy and want to preserve impartiality in our work. Parliament does select Committee members from different political parties, but once elected the Committee members cannot be members of Parliament. We conduct our everyday work independently of the Parliament.  

           

          But how difficult for you is it to separate your role as a former politician and as an expert in controlling intelligence?

          I think it is easier than I thought it would be, thanks to our legality and culture.We have very concrete rules and mutual understanding about what is our job. It is the same for police secret service. They also have detailed rules about what they are allowed to do or not allowed to do. But, the military secret service is not that much regulated. The Committee wants them to be more regulated, because then it is easier for us to do our legality control. And the Parliament agrees with us. Parliament is currently discussing special report made by the Committee where we advocate for more detailed regulations of military service and will follow up an intelligence methods.

            

          The power of professional work

           

          What is the most important feature of the committee? What power does the Committee have that makes it work efficiently?

          It is difficult to single out one power. What matters is professional use of the combination of competences and critical investigation during the inspections. Our powers are strong. We have almost unrestricted right to go to all premises of security services;, machinery, all their installations,  electronic files and paper files. We can write letters to secret services about issues. We can give oral comments during inspections in their headquarters and in the local branches, around in the police regions and in local military sites. We do around 25 inspections every year.

          We have the right to get any information on the secret service’s ongoing processes. However, we are not continuously following them as consultants. We do not give advice during their ongoing operations about, for example, use of methods. We cannot order secret services to do this or that. But we have the right to be informed about what they are doing, and of course we have discussions with them. But I think the most important influence we have is in the cases where we report criticism of the services  to the Parliament in our annual report or in our special reports. Parliament has agreed with our criticsm almost in a hundred percent of cases. That is why it is very harming for the secret services to have our criticsm presented in Parliament.

           

          How do security intelligence services respond to your opinions?

          They follow it up and they respond in a constructive manner  to both us, and the Parliament. Also, media covers our reported criticism. Their leaders who also often state that our work is helping them to work more confident within their legal framework.

           

          Towards securing lawful, reasonable and proportionate use of special investigative measures

           

          What is the major purpose of your inspections?

          The main purpose is legal control. But we also help them to focus on what should be their main task. In the sense that they should not use their time, their resources, to do things they are not allowed to do. That is a waste of time. I could bring you a personal example. I was in their files, 20, 30, 40 for many decades.

           

          As an object of investigation?

          Yes, I was in the secret files. There were reports from open meetings where I had given lectures or speeches about alternative security politics. The secret police even had witnesses which were of course blacked out in the documents that I later got the right to see. These three or four of so-called witnesses had seen me doing revolutionary shooting exercises in the 70s in an island in Norway. It is true that I had been on that island in two summer camps in the 50s as a scout, when I was 11 or 12 years old. But I have never done any shooting activities and  I’m very influenced by Gandhi’s pacifism. Using resources of security services for observations and registrations like that is just stupid - in addition to being illegal. But this example is old, before reform processes and democratic control laws in the 1990s.

          A more recent example, we find sometimes that secret services register people in mosques, or in asylum institutions, in student seeker’s institutions that they are not allowed to; just because people have black beard or dress as very traditional Muslims. It is allowed in Norway to be a traditional Muslim. What is not allowed is to use or support the use of violence. You can have extreme ideologies. I would say I am a rather extreme environmentalist, but I would never use violence. My main point is just that you can have right or left wing extreme attitudes, green extreme attitudes, nationalistic extreme attitudes, religious extreme attitudes. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you support violence or other criminal activities, threatening law and order or other people’s human rights.

           

          How did security services justify registration of political extreme opinions?

          They don’t justify it, they say that this is wrong. These things are often happening at the local scene. The national leadership of the secret police doesn’t always know about it and they agree with the criticism.

           

          They agree because they are caught red-handed or they really mean that action was wrong? They could be also fooling you by saying “Oh yeah that is wrong” and actually do nothing to correct their actions in the future.

          Of course they can. They can lie or try to cheat us. And of course our role in a way is to be suspicious, to pose critical questions. But still I believe them. I think now I know them that much, I look at them when they say “we are sorry, we are trying not to do this again, we have sent letters, we have educational courses, we have to clean this up”. I believe that this is their intention. And remember: We always report our critical findings to Parliament. And we control that they follow up their promises to end any illegal activity. Of course, sometimes they think we are a little bit too critical on detailed matters, but that is okay. Their job is to operate close to the border between what they are legally allowed to do and what could be illegal if they think it is necessary to detect something threatening I have to respect that. But they also have to respect that we are critical, that we are watching these border areas, and that is our job.

           

          Improved (inter)organizational culture is the most important success of the Committee’s work

           

          What is the most important change in regard to work of security services, as a consequence of Committees inspections?

          The general attitudes and relationships between the secret service leadership and our Committee has improved a lot. There is a better understanding now of our mutual roles, without moralizing towards the other part. However, this doesn’t mean that there is a total harmony. It is a mixture of having some common challenges, trying to be conscious about the border area between the necessary investigations, surveillance and registrations on the one side, and the respect for privacy and human rights on the other. This is a common challenge. The mutual respect of that role-sharing I think has grown a lot in the last years. This is also truth for the military intelligence service.

           

          Do all members of Committee agree on the findings or do you have any disputes during the investigation?

          For the 8 years that I have been in the committee, I cannot remember having any serious dispute. There might be some discussions about priorities, should we investigate this or that. We are now more and more doing some sort of project work where we go deep into some issues, often investigating more general or systemic problems. Starting from some individual cases we try to determine if   there are general legal or human right weaknesses in the way the security service works. For example, military intelligence towards Norwegian citizens.

           

          When you say intelligence operations towards Norwegian citizens what do you mean?

          I mean illegal registrations. It can also be cooperation with foreign intelligence services where they tap telephones maybe. We should have learned by now from the Snowden NSA case when the main power in NATO even taped the telephone of the German Chancellor. Then you see what sort of illegal actions foreign military intelligence can do. So, let’s not be naive. In Norway it is a broad support for the Snowden case, really. Very few people in Norway would call him a traitor. And even the biggest daily newspaper in Norway - which is some sort of liberal conservative newspaper and has been the biggest daily newspaper for many decades - in an editorial last year supported the idea that Snowden should be a very valid candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.

           

          What are the other areas that you deem as troublesome in the work of intelligence or security services in Norway? You mentioned intelligence operations on Norwegian citizens…

          Well we do want some more legal regulations, as I’ve said before, of the ways and methods that the military intelligence uses in general. We have argued for it, in a special report to Parliament. Parliament has recently supported this challenge and  will work on legislation necessary.

           

          Do you have any security intelligence service in Norway that is the most problematic actor in the sector?

          No, this will differ over time.

           

          Do you pay more attention toward the Norwegian Police Security Service?

           In many ways it is the most important service, and that is why we have six inspections per year in the headquarters and many local inspections. 

           

          Towards controlling Information Exchange with foreign services

           

          Do you have the right to investigate international cooperation and the exchange of information between Norwegian and foreign services?

          That is a big challenge. In information exchange with foreign services there is a often reffered to a “third party rule”, strictly prohibiting that exchanged information end in the hand of somebody else other than the security services that exchange information. The problem is that foreign services often look at us as a third party. However, neither the services nor the Parliament doesn’t look at us as a third party. And an external Evaluation Committee has recently recommended that we get full insight also in these sort of international communications, but only for the Chairman and the Vice Chairman of the Committee. Parliament is discussing this now - and tries to find some compromise.

           

           

          The EOS Committee

           

          The Norwegian Parliamentary Intelligence Oversight Committee (aka The EOS Committee) is an oversight body appointed by the Norwegian Parliament and has seven members and a permanent secretariat. The Committee conducts its day-to-day work independently of the Storting, and Members of Parliament are not permitted to simultaneously serve as members of the Committee. The Storting has emphasized that the Committee should have a varied composition, representing both political experience and experience from other areas of society. All Committee members have top level security clearance, in accordance with both national and NATO regulations. The regular term of office is five years, but members may be re-appointed.

           

          Area of oversight

          The area of oversight is not associated with specific organisational entities, and it is thus not of decisive importance for the oversight authority which bodies or agencies are engaged in EOS services at any given time. These duties are currently assigned to the Norwegian Police Security Service, the Norwegian National Security Authority, the Norwegian Intelligence Service and the Norwegian Defence Security Agency. The Committee may also conduct investigations in other parts of the public administration if this is deemed necessary in light of the Committee's oversight duties.

        • Tags: security services, secret, oversight, parliamentary control
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