Norway – a country off guard

The Patriot Act in the U.S. was hastily adopted without much opposition in 2001. It has been criticized every since for its excessiveness, and there are even cities in the U.S. that will not recognize parts of the law, because they believe it is unconstitutional. In 2006, the two parties in Congress negotiated and passed a new law that they believed limited the government’s powers sufficiently, but the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) are still critical and believe that important American freedoms are threatened by the law.

I think the biggest problem with the law is that you can be arrested and held indefinitely without charge or trial. The law does not define what a terrorist organization is. To exaggerate, a membership in the Red Cross can automatically make you a terrorist. This organization often operates in questionable regimes like Iran and Sudan, and to do their jobs they need to be pragmatic in their relations with the authorities. Under The Patriot Act, they are terrorists if the United States says they are, and can be sent to Guantanamo Bay without anyone knowing that the person has even been arrested.

Here in Norway, I think it’s important that we accept more surveillance than we have had so far, but it is also important that we do not make the mistake the United States made. It is common in Congress that the politicians have no idea what they vote on. Laws that one expects will be difficult to get through are often presented just before Christmas or summer break. The result is that in many cases the representatives pass a law without having read the documents. I wonder if that’s what happened with the Patriot Act, because shortly afterwards, many of the representatives were just as critical as the rest of us.

The Norwegian media reported a few days ago that while Anders Breivik believed that the police were onto him, Politiet Sikkerhet Tjenester (PST, Norwegian equivalent to CIA) got orders from the government to delete information they had on political extremists. PST is, in fact, not allowed to record someone on the basis of religious or political opinions. It would be interesting to find out whether PST defines a religious extremist as Muslim and ignores the Christian extremists, as they did with Breivik. This is perhaps a type of surveillance we have to get used to in the future. It does not mean we should arrest people and throw away all civil rights, but it is important to have some idea about what is happening in the kingdom.

Yesterday I woke up to the news that a female teacher is being investigated because she had contact with Breivik on Facebook for a while. It was a concerned father who reported this to the headmaster at the school after he had monitored the teacher’s activities in online debate groups. This is an example of people that should be followed, without necessarily any steps being taken. I actually do not agree with those who believe that a person like this should be automatically fired. It depends on what she has said. If she has uttered an anti-Islamic opinion, as she claims is all she did, I think it’s all right. In a democracy we should be allowed to say what we mean, no matter how much most of us disagree. The situation is different, however, if she’s told the students, and especially if she’s called for violence against Muslims.

Stoltenberg is proud of the open Norwegian society where we do not need surveillance because society is filled by so much love that nothing ever happens here. We love everyone, whether they are Muslims, Jews or Hindus. Or if they are black, asians or white. We show this in our everyday life. I am aware that many of us have blue eyes, but this is too much. I hope tomorrow’s politicians are much less the blueeyed innocents most politician are today.


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