Sunday, May 22

Special unit: PST used illegal surveillance method

PST collected passenger lists from Norwegian airlines, without being allowed to do so. A gross violation of the duty of service, according to the Bureau of Investigation.

The police security service did not have the authority to collect passenger data, according to the Bureau of Investigation.

In December 2019, it became known that PST had monitored flights to and from Norway, by retrieving passenger lists from several airlines.

The Storting’s control committee for intelligence, surveillance and security services (EOS committee) criticized PST. The practice was illegal, the committee said.

The next day, the case was reported to the Special Unit for Police Affairs. The special unit henla the case at the end of January last year.

But the Attorney General ordered a new investigation.

Now the decision from the Bureau is ready. Aftenposten has gained access to the document. The conclusion is unequivocal: PST has breached its duty of service.

The special unit believes that PST was not allowed to collect passenger data about Norwegian citizens. The data was also not stored correctly:

– We take the decision and criticism from the Bureau very seriously, says PST chief Hans Sverre Sjøvold to Aftenposten.

– The practice that the special unit has investigated has ended, he adds.

Had access to Norwegian’s booking system and passenger lists

PST has had access to flight data for many years. They got it in two ways.

The service was given its own username and password, so they could search Norwegian’s booking system themselves. In addition, PST received lists from one of its passengers from a handful of other airlines. It should have started in 2018.

The EOS committee has criticized PST for this.

PST does not even know when they gained access to Norwegian’s booking system. It probably happened in 2010, writes the special unit.

The EOS committee has questioned whether PST was allowed to do so. The committee believes that the courts should have given permission for collection in each individual case.

Today, Hans Sverre Sjøvold is PST chief. A few years ago, Benedicte Bjørnland considered stopping the collection, when she was PST chief.

The management of PST must have considered terminating the practice. However, they thought it was dangerous to stop surveillance. The reason was the danger of terrorism in Europe and Norway.

Approximately one million passengers were on the lists, and of them 464,949 were Norwegian citizens, PST informed the EOS committee in 2018. In 2019, access to Norwegian’s booking system was stopped.

Not an emergency situation

PST itself believes that the security service was in a form of emergency law situation. The threat of terrorism meant that PST had no alternative. The Bureau disagrees with:

The special unit writes that they acknowledge that PST was in a very demanding situation. In the extreme, it could have major consequences. Nevertheless, it does not make up for the fact that PST maintained the practice over several years. It should have been terminated, according to the Bureau.

Despite the fact that the breach of duty was serious, PST escapes corporate punishment.

Corporate penalties must be preventive. PST has terminated the practice and has developed better routines, it is stated in the decision.

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