Annual threat assessment 2012

The Norwegian Police Security Service's (PST) annual threat assessment is an analysis of expected developments within PST's main areas of responsibility. The assessment concentrates on circumstances that may affect Norwegian security and harm national interests in 2012.

The assessment's outlook is therefore one year into the future. During the course of a year, however, unforeseen events that arise may change the basis of the assessment, and such events may have a large impact on the threat situation.


Norwegian society is generally peaceful and without serious internal conflicts. At the same time, however, we are subjected to activity that can undermine our security and harm national interests. It is this activity that is assessed in further detail in the threat assessment.

The threat assessment has been compiled at a time characterised by substantial international changes, which can have an impact on the situation in this country. Several countries in the Middle East and North Africa are experiencing extensive regime changes the ultimate outcome of which are highly uncertain. Europe might be heading towards a lengthy and serious financial crisis. In the years ahead a number of countries might therefore experience an increased level of poverty, for private citizens and public bodies. This could create social unrest in several countries, and in some cases the financial crisis has already resulted in violent outcomes. In addition, racism - and particularly hateful anti-Islamic utterances - has become more visible. Continued high levels of migration, combined with low economic growth and increasing unemployment can create the basis for higher levels of conflict along ethnic, cultural, social and economic lines.

So far Norway has been barely affected by the financial crisis. On the other hand the general crime picture in this country is affected by the situation in other European countries. The current challenges that are the result of the financial crisis will also have to be dealt with by us. The exact form and the level of severity of the challenges that will present themselves are currently unknown.

The threat assessment for 2012 is, as in previous years, based on a number of different sources. This includes information from open sources, from national partners with whom we co-operate, from other security services and not least PST's own sources and observations. The information might often be incomplete, fragmented and difficult to verify. This means that all assessments of future, potential threats will be uncertain.

The threat assessment has a perspective of about one year. Some of the issues dealt with will be characterised by continuity and will change relatively little from year to year. This applies to intelligence, for example. Other challenges might change rapidly and without warning. 2011 has shown us that unexpected events can happen and have huge consequences, both nationally and internationally.


Main conclusions

  • Extreme Islamism will continue to represent the greatest terrorist threat to Norway in 2012. Even though there are few individuals in Norway who support extreme Islamism, recruitment to some groups is increasing. Individuals who are regarded as leaders in these groups could exploit this to establish cells or groups in Norway with the aim of planning violent activities. Norway is seen as one of the key enemies by some of these leaders.
  • Individuals in the extreme Islamist networks are involved in activities that have become more operational in nature than previously. Several of these individuals travel to conflict zones in order to attend training camps and to meet international contacts. Such stays could influence an individual's desire and ability to plan terrorist acts in this country. On the other hand, players who present a threat could commit violent acts irrespective of such travels.
  • The terrorist acts of 22 July have so far not resulted in a change to the threat from organised national extremist groups in Norway. The level of support around organised far-right extremist and anti-Islamic groups is expected to continue to be relatively low in 2012. However, there are many who gain inspiration from the anti-Islamic groups' xenophobic rhetoric, and who sympathise with and support such attitudes. The number of individuals who encourage or threaten the use of violence through anti-Islamic rhetoric appears to be increasing.
  • The number of threats to Norwegian dignitaries has increased significantly following the terrorist acts of 22 July. Utterances and threats have also become more aggravated and more serious. We expect the level of threat activity and negative attention directed towards individual dignitaries to remain higher.
  • Norway and Norwegian interests are subjected on a daily basis to unwanted and illegal intelligence activities by other states. We anticipate that the bulk of intelligence activity against Norway and Norwegian interests will continue to concentrate on topics such as energy, defence, security and military preparedness issues. This would involve ongoing intelligence activity directed at the relevant political processes - particularly those connected to petroleum and gas, the High North region and the Svalbard islands. Public and private employees with access to sensitive information are flattered, bribed and pressured into providing such information or to contribute to influencing the decision-making processes.
  • Some of the states that are most active in their intelligence activity against Norway have embarked upon extensive military capacity building and modernisation. Several Norwegian research communities are world leaders in specialist areas of great economic and military significance. We anticipate increased attention from foreign intelligence services directed at the technology and know-how which these Norwegian communities develop. 
  • There are reasons to believe that the intelligence services that are most active against Norwegian interests are especially strengthening their capability and capacity for computer and internet-based intelligence activity.
  • There is a wide spectrum of technology and know-how in Norway that can be used in the development and production of nuclear weapons. During 2012 Norwegian businesses and research communities will continue to be the target for obtaining technology and know-how, which can be used in the development and production of nuclear weapons. Players connected to Iran are expected to be active in their attempts to procure such crucial technology.

Politically-motivated violence - extreme Islamism

Extreme1 Islamism will continue to represent the greatest terrorist threat in Norway in 2012. Even though there are few individuals in the country who support extreme Islamism, there are several networks that have a high level of activity. Key individuals in the networks have extensive contact with each other, and have a large network of contacts in Norway as well as internationally. Several of the networks are multi-ethnic and consist of both foreign and Norwegian nationals. At the same time, ethnically homogenous networks continue to operate out of Norway.

There are several trends that will affect the threat picture in 2012. Firstly, individuals who have been brought up here will be recruited into extreme Islamist networks to a greater extent than previously. Secondly, the activities in extreme Islamist groups will become more operational in character than before. In addition, we anticipate that extreme Islamists in Norway will focus more on so-called solo terrorism2.

The threat picture may also be affected by international events such as the weakening of al-Qaida, as well as regime changes and unrest in several Arabic countries. For the time being the Norwegian groups do not appear to be materially affected by these events. Individuals in the Norwegian groups continue to travel to the same conflict zones as they did before.


Radicalisation3 will continue to characterise the threat picture in Norway during 2012. A recruitment base exists in this country, which is comprised of young individuals who are not yet extremist. Many of these have a polarised world view, and some are believed to be easily influenced. Others actively pursue acceptance into extremist groups. We therefore expect to see a development where several young Norwegian nationals support an extreme Islamist ideology.

Some extreme Islamist leaders in Norway are attempting to exploit the recruitment base.  Several of the leaders are individuals who have been brought up in this country. They advance a global extreme Islamist rhetoric and put it in a Norwegian context. They regard Norway as one of the key enemies. They continue to use the cartoons dispute as well as Norwegian military participation in Afghanistan to escalate the level of conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims. In this way they can easily allow themselves to be understood and appeal to particularly young supporters.

The fact that such leaders could exploit an increasing recruitment base could result in the establishment of new cells or groups in Norway whose intention is to plan violent attacks.

Operational focus

Extreme Islamists appear to be engaged in an increasingly broader spectrum of activities, which could support terrorism. The groups in this country continue to deal with the collection and transfer of funds to extreme Islamist groups and organisations abroad. At the same time, we are seeing activities that are more operational in character. Individuals who are settled here organise trips to conflict zones for training or to participate in battles, and recruit individuals for possible terrorist purposes. In addition individuals in Norwegian groups obtain equipment that may be used in terrorist activities.

There is much interest within the Norwegian extreme Islamist groups in making trips to conflict zones in order to get training and fighting experience. Several individuals in Norway have been on trips to conflict zones in order to attend training camps or to participate in battles. The majority of those who travel appear to be engaged in supporting militant groups that have a local or regional focus. For others, the focus of the group appears to be less important, as long as they get the opportunity to train or to participate in battle. Several also travel abroad in order to meet contacts and to maintain an international network.

Not everyone who has travelled to participate in battles has returned to Norway. However, there are some who return from stays abroad. These individuals have developed contacts and operational abilities.

Such stays can also to a large extent influence an individual's intention to plan terrorist activities in this country. They could represent a direct threat.

Individuals who have participated in battle or in training camps often have an enhanced status in groups here at home. They could therefore more easily recruit new individuals to the extremist groups. Furthermore they could contribute to an increased acceptance of violence among those who are already in a radicalisation process.

Training and battle experience from conflict areas are, however, not pre-requisites for preparing or carrying out terrorist activities. Players who present a threat can with relatively basic aids carry out violent acts. Much of the network building, communication and propaganda activities in the Norwegian extremist groups take place on the Internet. Players who present a threat also use the Internet as an alternative arena for acquiring sufficient operational abilities and in order to get ideological guidance.

Targets and methods

The choice of target for a terrorist act depends on several factors. In the Scandinavian countries the majority of occurrences have been aimed at targets connected to the cartoons dispute. The status of media coverage, as well as propaganda distributed by extreme Islamist groups, are key elements that influence the selection of targets. In addition, these groups are pragmatic in relation to the choice of target. Both accessibility and considerations as to the potential for success influence the choice of target. Extreme Islamists appear to continue to prioritise attacks that have the effect of generating media attention and causing fear in the general population.

Furthermore, there has been much focus on solo terrorism in 2011. In its propaganda, al-Qaida has called on its followers to carry out terrorist activities alone. In addition, in recent years there have been several solo terrorist occurrences in Western countries. Solo terrorists have carried out all terrorist acts perpetrated by extreme Islamists in Scandinavia in the last couple of years. It is believed that this contributes to an increased interest in such a tactic among individual extreme Islamists in this country also.

The terrorist attack on 22 July demonstrated that it is possible to carry out large terrorist attacks alone. A compendium put together by the perpetrator also provides detailed tactical instructions for the preparation of solo terrorism in Norway. Extreme Islamists may try to utilise the compendium in connection with the preparation of terrorist activities.

These developments indicate an increased threat from potential solo terrorists. The absence of communication and exchanges with others about terrorist plans makes it challenging to identify solo terrorists. It is therefore also difficult to assess the scope of this threat.

  1. The termextreme refers to a person's attitude to the use of violence. It describes the attitude of a person or group who accepts the use of violence to achieve political, religious or ideological objectives.Extremism therefore denotes solely the choice of means but not the objectives.
  2. At PST we use the termsolo terrorism to describe an individual who, with the intent to cause terror, prepares and ultimately carries out an act of terrorism without the existence of an association with others. The perpetrator may obtain assistance, motivation and support from others, but without their knowledge that plans exist for a concrete terrorist act.
  3. Radicalisation is used by PST to refer to the process by which a person increasingly accepts the use of violence as a means of achieving political, religious or ideological aims.

National extremism

The terrorist attacks on 22 July have not led to an increase in the threat from organised national extreme groups in Norway. The threat from these groups is expected to remain low in 2012. Concrete threats and generally threatening utterances from lone players, irrespective of ideological motivation, has however increased. Large-scale acts of violence, which receive wide media coverage, could inspire some to attempt to carry out imitation acts.

Far-right extremist players

Over the last two years there has been a marked increase in activity levels within the traditional far-right extreme groups in Norway. The activity continues to be characterised by the absence of strong leaders and the absence of a unifying ideological platform. The groups do not have a clearly defined common ideology, but are united in varying degrees of xenophobia, anti-Semitism, Norse and/or Nazi symbolism and the romanticism of violence.

Private gatherings and social interaction continue to be important in establishing and maintaining belongership within the far-right extremist groups. On the other hand there are extremely few far-right extremist commemorations in the public space. The threshold for holding visible events appears to be high. One explanation for this could be that there are significant social costs for those who publicly announce their far-right extremist views. Furthermore, overt events usually result in a backlash by violent far-left extremists.

The number of violent far-right extremist individuals continues to be low, and recruitment to organised groups is weak. Recruitment is not expected to increase during 2012. Nor is there thought to be room for any significant increase in the potential of organised groups to commit violence during the year ahead.

At the same time, instances in other European countries demonstrate that it is mainly individuals or small groups of two or three individuals who carry out far-right extremist acts of violence. A significant proportion of the far-right extremist activities carried out in Norway is not organised. It takes place through,inter alia, social media and websites where participants exchange far-right extremist utterances and ideas. Even though it is expected that the general threat from organised far-right extremist groups will remain low, small groups and individuals do represent a potential threat.

Anti-Islamic players

Anti-Islamic groups in Norway would like to be seen as having cultural and political diversity. However, their activities are based on a clearly xenophobic ideology. According to anti-Islamic sentiments, Europe and Norway are in the process of being Islamised, and the spread of Islam must therefore be stopped. The Norwegian authorities, as well as some high-profile public figures are being held responsible for the purported Islamisation of society.

Anti-Islamic organisations in Norway appear to have a broader recruitment base than the traditional far-right extremist groups. Members are initially associated not with neo-Nazi or far-right extremist symbols and views. In contrast to traditional far-right extremism, the anti-Islamic hostile stance is based on religion more than race. Furthermore, several anti-Islamic players voice support for Israel.

Up to now there has still been very limited participation in public commemorations and demonstrations arranged by anti-Islamic organisations in Norway. The organisations are first and foremost visible on various social media networks.

There is a high level of activity on several anti-Islamic websites. The majority of websites do not advance a message of violence. However, they provide conspiracy theories combined with a strong displeasure with social policy. This can have a radicalising impact on those who are vulnerable. There are also several individuals in the virtual groups who publish utterances containing an explicitly violent message.

The established anti-Islamic organisations in Norway distance themselves from the use of politically motivated violence and operate within the boundaries of freedom of expression. At the same time these organisations attract violent individuals. We anticipate that some of these individuals will attempt to utilise the anti-Islamic organisations' recruitment base in order to establish sub-groups with a more violent profile.

There are many who become inspired by the anti-Islamic groups' xenophobic message. The number of individuals who encourage or threaten the use of violence in relation to anti-Islamic rhetoric appears to be increasing.

The perpetrator responsible for the terrorist acts on 22 July has attempted to justify the attacks in part by reference to anti-Islamic propaganda. This was expressed in a compendium, which was compiled by the perpetrator. The vast majority in the anti-Islamic groups have distanced themselves clearly from the terrorist acts. At the same time some individuals have expressed support for the perpetrator. The terrorist acts as well as the compendium could have a radicalising effect on individuals within the anti-Islamic groups. The terrorist acts demonstrate that solo terrorists represent an unknown, but a potential and serious, threat. Such individuals could be motivated by different ideological stances, including a traditional far-right extremist and anti-Islamic mentality.

Far-left extremist players

The level of activity within violent far-left extremist groups in Norway has remained stable in recent years. Norwegian far-left extremists have mainly carried out violent demonstrations and commemorations directed at far-right extremists, as well as connected to the conflicts in the Middle East and to climate and globalisation issues.

It is believed that the activities within the groups in Norway will in 2012 also involve violent counter-actions against possible far-right extremist and anti-Islamic events. The groups could also react to controversial cases that gain much media attention. This could result in violent demonstrations and commemorations directed at diplomatic missions, political bodies or commercial players.

In several European countries violent far-left extremist activities have increased significantly in recent years. The increase is seen in the context of increasing social unrest as a result of the economic downturn in Europe. Norwegian far-left extremist groups have extensive contacts with similar groups abroad. There is only a slight probability, however, that developments in some European countries in themselves will lead to an increase in violent activities in Norway in 2012.

Threats to dignitaries

Norwegian dignitaries4 receive many verbal threats and strong expressions of disapproval. Such expressions may come from individuals belonging to various extremist groups. However, the majority do not belong to a group, but present threats on the basis of personal motives. A larger proportion of those who make threatening utterances are individuals who are psychologically unstable5.

Those who present such threats do so partly in order to express frustration, draw attention to a failure in the system or to stimulate change. They often hold a specific dignitary responsible for an unwanted event relating to the individual or society. Some individuals' threats are made impulsively and based on passion, while others systematically repeat their threats over time.

The vast majority of those who present threats make no actual attempts to inflict physical harm on the dignitary in question. Instances in Europe have demonstrated that physical attacks on dignitaries are usually carried out by individuals who have not made a direct threat prior to the attack. Individuals who have carried out the attacks could, however, have previously had an obsessive focus on dignitaries.

The number of threats to Norwegian dignitaries has increased substantially following the terrorist acts of 22 July. The increase is mainly connected to expressions of displeasure and threats on the Internet. The utterances and threats have also become more aggravated and more serious. Additionally, several individuals who have previously made threats appear to have strengthened their threatening behaviour. Following 22 July, individuals who subscribe to a right-wing political persuasion have made many threats. However, they are not connected to any political group. The huge focus on terrorist acts in the media contribute to an increasing likelihood that individuals attempt to carry out acts of violence directed towards Norwegian dignitaries.

It is believed that the terrorist acts will continue to characterise the threat activity directed at dignitaries during 2012. We anticipate a continued higher level of threat activity and negative attention directed towards certain dignitaries.

4. PST is responsible for preventing threats and attacks on Norwegian dignitaries. Section 17 d, first sub-section, letter c of the Police Act defines a dignitary as a member of the Royal Family, the Storting (Norwegian Parliament), the Government and the Supreme Court, as well as representatives from similar bodies in other states on visits to Norway.

5. "Psychologically unstable" is used to describe individuals who are mentally ill, facing adverse circumstances in their private life and/or affected by alcohol or other substances.

Intelligence activity

Globally we are facing a complex and dynamic security policy picture. Substantial changes, both within individual countries and in the balance of power between different countries increases insecurity, and in turn the need for more and better intelligence. More countries than before are using substantial amounts of resources in order to obtain information and know-how that can improve their economic development, military technology and military preparedness. The intelligence services have a central role in several countries, as effective tools in achieving strategic political objectives. Those countries that currently carry out the most serious intelligence activities against Norway are the ones that use substantial resources on their intelligence services.

Norway and Norwegian interests are subjected on a daily basis to unwanted and illegal intelligence gathering by other countries. When Norwegian nationals are subjected to intelligence gathering by foreign states, this is often initiated during meetings with diplomats, representatives from the commercial sphere, technical experts or journalists. Employees from the private and public sectors who have access to sensitive information are flattered, bribed or pressured into parting with such information or to contribute to influencing decision-making processes. Information from human sources continues to be the preferred method of obtaining information, but it is combined with other methods, including within information and communication technology.

We anticipate that intelligence gathering directed at Norway and Norwegian interests will be characterised by three main themes. Firstly, the bulk of intelligence activity directed at Norwegian interests will continue to concentrate on traditional themes such as energy, defence, security and military preparedness issues as well as the political processes and decisions connected to these. Secondly, we anticipate an increased focus on Norwegian research and development of civilian and military high technology. Thirdly, the intelligence services of foreign states will continue to strengthen their capacity for computer and Internet based intelligence gathering directed at Norwegian interests.

Traditional intelligence targets

Norway's geographic location has historically made us a target of interest to intelligence gathering, both militarily and politically. This still applies. The intelligence services of some countries are currently still carrying out a continuous and detailed mapping of the Norwegian armed forces and Norwegian security and military preparedness. The Norwegian NATO membership, Norway's relationship with the EU, its co-operation with Russia and USA and its participation in the Arctic Council, are co-operative relationships which continue to be of intelligence interest.

Certain states are constantly working to weaken Norwegian authorities' and independent organisations' work on human rights in other countries. They are also trying to map and reduce political dissident activity that emanate from different communities in exile in this country.

Foreign intelligence services map Norwegian political processes and negotiation positions. Decisions that are arrived at in Norway may have significant financial, political and defence-related consequences in other states. In order to influence these, the services are working actively in this country in order to influence decision makers and thereby also decision-making processes. The activity is not just directed at politicians and bureaucrats. The intelligence services also focus on special interest organisations, research communities and others who have a direct or indirect influence on the political process.

In the years ahead we anticipate a heightened intelligence focus on Norwegian political processes, particularly connected to the High North and the Svalbard islands. The increasing international attention connected to opportunities for the exploitation of resources in the Arctic, mean that the archipelago's location is becoming increasingly more strategically important. Everyone who works with issues related to this region can therefore be subjected to intelligence activities.

High technology

Norway possesses specialist expertise in research and development within petroleum and gas technology generally, and particularly in Arctic conditions. This is the kind of know-how and expertise, which other states will be seeking in order to exploit their own resources in future. We therefore expect intelligence activities in this area to continue.

Some of the states that are most active in intelligence activity directed at Norway have put in place military capacity-development and modernisation programmes. Norway is far advanced in niche areas within military high technology, but also in some areas within civilian high technology, which can have a military application. Examples of the latter can be found, among others, within nano, bio and mobile technology. This is an area where we also expect an increasingly more systematic and effective foreign intelligence activity. A recent trend in intelligence activities within high technology is some intelligence services' improper pressure on students and researchers to hand over research results to the home country, precisely in order to enhance their own research and development.

Increased capacity

Foreign intelligence services are continuously enhancing their capacity to deal with computer and Internet based intelligence. The ongoing capacity development within computer network operations will make such attacks more systematic and effective. The attacks will also increasingly exploit weaknesses in our systems. We must also anticipate more sophisticated software, which among other things leaves fewer footprints. There is therefore a danger that foreign intelligence services' computer and Internet based intelligence activity could more severely affect Norwegian intelligence targets.

Information security is given low priority in many Norwegian government and private institutions. Few Norwegian businesses have security routines on how sensitive information should be handled. In addition, a very large quantity of information is now being handled, developed and communicated electronically. Vital security systems are also being operated electronically. The intelligence services gain easier access to the information they are seeking when Norwegian computer systems are connected to the Internet.

Foreign intelligence services use the breaks in continuity in the upgrading of software and firewalls to carry out their work. In addition, they make good use of the fact that valuable information is hardly ever encrypted and that such information is seldom divided up and put on different databases.

Disloyal servants within an institution or business that is the subject of intelligence activity, could make arrangements to facilitate computer network operations. Intelligence services can more easily infiltrate companies and institutions when employers do not carry out detailed enough background checks on applicants. The Wikileaks publications demonstrated that even government departments, who have good routines for vetting employees and handling information, could be affected by disloyal servants.

Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction

Various types of procurement activities are being carried out in Norway. Foreign states are requesting technology and know-how within a range of technical and natural science disciplines. Several civilian technology areas may also be put to military uses, including a use in the production of weapons of mass destruction.6 Players connected to Iran are particularly active in relation to attempts to obtain such technology in Norway. Norwegian businesses and research communities must expect attempts to obtain technology and know-how, in contravention of established sanction arrangements, to continue in future.

The Norwegian market is regarded as an attractive arena for the collection of key technology within technical and natural science disciplines. The range of technology and know-how, which can be applied in the development, and production of nuclear weapons, is wide. Players from countries of concern focus on various natural science programmes of study in Norway in order to acquire knowledge and competences that are relevant in a possible weapons programme.

It is difficult to distinguish legitimate commercial trade enquiries about technology for civilian use from undercover military-related enquiries. Various methods are used to hide the fact that a query could be connected to a weapons programme. This includes the use of front companies in order to conceal the identity of the end users7. Civilian projects are used as a cover in order to secure procurement for nuclear or military installations. In some instances relevant products and technologies are transported via intermediaries in several different countries before they end up in, for example, Iran. In the same way Norway is also used as a country of transit for the undercover procurement of technology.

There are reasons to suppose that methods for avoiding export control and sanctions arrangements will be developed constantly. The interest in Norwegian technology will also continue in 2012. Norwegian businesses and expert communities will continue to receive enquiries from players who are involved in proliferation-related activities. We expect that Norwegian firms and research communities will this year also receive students and researchers who can give cause for concern. In some cases students or researchers travel abroad on their own initiative so that they can be subsequently approached for recruitment on their return or during their studies. They may be pressured into contributing with relevant expertise, which can be important in relation to the development of weapons of mass destruction.

Players connected to Iran are expected to be active in attempting to procure relevant technology and expertise in Norway. International developments indicate that in the longer term we may be experiencing a more complex threat picture as regards the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. In the event that Iran develops nuclear weapons capability, we believe other countries in the region would intensify their efforts to develop their own capability. This will create increased pressure on organisations in European countries, including Norway, regarding the export of relevant technology.

6. This is often referred to asdual-use technology.

7. End-user refers to the ultimate receiver of the product or goods that are exported.