Annual threat assessment 2013

Politically motivated violence is expected to represent a threat to Norway and Norwegian interests in 2013. The most serious threat will come from individuals and groups who have an al-Qaida inspired outlook on the world. The threat picture will be particularly characterised by individuals who have a base in Norway and who are willing to use violence to back up their hostile stance, with Norwegian players and Norwegian symbols playing a central part. In addition, in 2013 Norway will also be subjected to different forms of intelligence activity, which will be damaging to Norwegian interests in both the short and longer term. 

In the Annual Threat Assessment the Norwegian Police Security Service (PST) provides an analysis of expected developments within the Service's areas of responsibility. The assessment is based on both unclassified and classified information. We have decided to focus on general trends and accentuate what we see as the most important trends for the year ahead. 

Dealing with the current security threats is a responsibility of society at large. A broad spectrum of different players in society is involved in this work. This threat assessment has been prepared for the sections of the Norwegian public that require an updated overview of trends in the threat picture within PST's areas of responsibility.

PST will develop, as required, more targeted assessments for the authorities which play a direct role in ensuring the security of society.

Summary - Assessments

Extreme Islamism continues to represent the most serious terrorist threat in Norway, and we expect this to remain the case in 2013. Individuals in extreme Islamist groupings will continue to be concerned with conveying extremist rhetoric where, among others, Norway is seen as one of the key enemies.  This makes the propaganda appealing to impressionable young people in this country and contributes to radicalisation continuing to be a trend in the threat picture.   

During 2013 there may be an increase in the total number of persons in the Norwegian extreme Islamist groupings with experience from training camps and battles. Individuals with this type of experience are expected to have a lower threshold for the use of violence. 

The organised left-wing and right-wing extremist groups appear to be less threatening to society than the extreme Islamist groupings. However, they may carry out violence against individual political opponents or religious or ethnic minorities. Individuals and small groups who operate independently of the organised groups represent a big challenge in 2013. 

Anders Behring Breivik will continue to be an inspiration for individuals, both in Norway and internationally. Even though most sympathisers in Norway are thought to distance themselves from the terrorist strike on the island of Utøya, there are several who support the attack against government headquarters and the government. 

2013 is an election year, and there will be an increased focus on parliamentarians and members of the government in the run up to the election in September. It is expected that some of these may experience an increase in annoying or threatening behaviour from the public as a result of an increased exposure in connection with the election campaign. The Internet will continue to be the most important forum for players who express hatred of the authorities.

Intelligence activity directed at Norway and Norwegian interests is being carried out continually, at a consistently high level and is directed towards a wide spectrum of targets. We expect the activity to be particularly directed towards security and civil defence issues as well as technological, financial and political targets. In addition, several states will continue their espionage directed at refugee communities in Norway and political activists who are resident here.  

The majority of attempts to obtain technology from Norwegian organisations that are relevant to the development of weapons of mass destruction can be connected to Iranian players. Targets in Norway for this activity are found among both small and large organisations within the civilian high technology sector, the defence industry as well as a broad spectrum of research and development sectors.  


Politically motivated violence: Extreme Islamism

Extreme Islamism¹ continues to represent the most serious terrorist threat in Norway, and we expect this to be the case also in 2013. Several extreme Islamist informal groupings of different sizes exist in Norway. The organisation, motivation and acceptance of the use of violence within these groupings varies, and they present varying degrees of potential threat. The activities in these groupings consist mainly of recruitment, propaganda, financing and travel activities. Individuals in the Norwegian groupings travel to and have contact with extremist players abroad. In addition, there is a close connection between individuals in the different extremist groupings in Norway.

In recent years a violent multi-ethnic Islamist grouping has appeared, which consists of young people brought up in this country. Parts of the grouping have an al-Qaida inspired global outlook. Key individuals in this grouping appear to be extremist and have a rhetoric, which glorifies violence. This rhetoric places responsibility on Norway for the suffering of Muslims, both nationally and globally. Parts of the grouping are more connected and better organised than before. Several make public utterances, particularly on social media. Some are action oriented and give the impression of being impatient. More individuals from this grouping travel to conflict zones than before.

The more homogenous extreme Islamist groupings in Norway are small and keep a low profile in Norwegian society. They support militant Islamist groups in their former home regions, primarily through the collection of funds and propaganda activity. In addition, several individuals from these groupings have travelled abroad to join these groups and to participate in armed battles.  

Radicalisation and recruitment

Radicalisation² and recruitment are a central activity among individuals in the extreme Islamist groupings. Those that are actively involved in such activity will continue to do so in 2013. Members of these groupings who are opinion makers who have grown up in this country appear to be increasingly preoccupied with spreading extremist rhetoric in which Norway is regarded as a key enemy. The focus on concrete and close enemies in extremists' spreading of propaganda may appeal to young people in this country. In addition, when much of the propaganda activity is carried out in public this results in many being exposed to extremist views.

Conflicts in Muslim countries, involving Western players, will continue to be of significance to individuals becoming radicalised. Western, and particularly Norwegian, military participation in Muslim countries will continue to be used in propaganda activity in order to increase recruitment to extremist groupings in Norway. 

The attention that the media, politicians, the police and other players working on prevention have directed towards segments of these groupings, can in some cases reduce some of the radicalisation and recruitment. Several people would find it stigmatising to be associated with extremism and therefore quit these groupings. At the same time, several individuals who have come a long way in radicalisation would only be influenced in a limited way by this kind of attention. If anything, it could contribute to strengthening parts of these groupings. In this way they can direct their aggression towards those who challenge them. In addition, some individuals may regard the negative attention as attractive. There is therefore reason to expect that radicalisation and recruitment will continue to be a substantial challenge in 2013.


Travel in order to participate in battles or training camps

In the past year PST has noticed that several more individuals than previously have travelled from Norway to conflict zones. Some of those who have travelled have probably joined militant Islamist groups. Travel activity within the Norwegian groupings is better organised than previously and several individuals have expressed their desire to travel abroad. Which conflict zone they would like to go to is changing with time, and faster than before. We expect there to be individuals who would travel to conflict zones in 2013 also.  

The fact that several individuals have travelled to the same conflict zone can lead to a stronger bond between them. During such stays abroad they may obtain ideological indoctrination, battle experience and expand their contact network of extreme Islamists. A stay abroad would also give them a higher status in their home groupings. Some may function as trainers in radicalisation and facilitate travel abroad by others, both while they are abroad and after they have returned. Extreme Islamists in Norway continue to collect funds that end up with extremist groups and individuals in conflict zones. Individuals from Norway who reside in conflict zones also receive funds from collection activity that takes place here. 

The threat from those who travel to conflict zones will vary. Some may be killed, while others will remain abroad. Others may become disillusioned by such stays abroad and lose their motivation for participating in violent groups. Meanwhile we expect some who have travelled abroad to come back to Norway with an increased intention and capacity to plan terrorist activity. This is a consequence of both personal experience abroad and because they may have come in contact with groups who would like to carry out attacks in Western countries. 

In 2013 there will be several individuals in the Norwegian groupings with experience from training camps and armed conflict. Individuals with this type of experience are expected to have a lower threshold for the use of violence. In the year ahead we may experience an increase in the potential for violence in parts of these groupings.   


Modus operandi and target selection

Extreme Islamists' modus operandi and the targets they select are constantly changing. Attacks are adjusted in light of new security measures and routines and are often inspired by previously executed attacks. The selection of targets is influenced by what is happening in the media and international propaganda. In Europe, extreme Islamists have mainly carried out terrorist attacks against easily accessible targets, which provide huge media attention and which can spread fear in the population. In Scandinavia, targets related to the caricature dispute have been particularly important. 

High profile international extremist ideologies have in recent times encouraged attacks with the view to applying pressure for the release of extreme Islamists. Several extreme Islamists are imprisoned in Norway and our expectation is that this may lead to threats to, or revenge attacks on Norwegian interests.  

There is thought to be few individuals or groupings that have the capacity to carry out large complex attacks in Norway. At the same time we have observed that in several European countries terrorist attacks are carried out with relatively easily accessible capacity, such as different types of hand weapons. Such attacks can also inflict large-scale harm. Capacity building in the form of operational training, access to special weapons or explosives will be a critical element in the development of the terrorist threat in this country. The mental capacity and desire to carry out a terrorist attack is also an equally key factor. 

The majority of those involved in extreme Islamist activity in Norway will continue to remain together in groupings. At the same time it is possible that individuals in Norway will attempt to carry out terrorist activity alone. Many of those who have carried out terrorist activity on their own, have had previous contact with extremist groups. In addition, individuals may also become radicalised through the Internet, without particular contact with the groups they sympathise or identify with. 

In the year ahead we must also anticipate that single events may result in a rapid change in the threat picture. Over the past year there have been several events abroad where situations that have been interpreted as insults to Islam have resulted in reactions in Norway. In addition, individuals in the extreme Islamist groupings in this country have focused, among other things, on Norwegian foreign and security policy and used this as the basis for demonstrations. We also expect this to happen in 2013.  Some individuals who are thought to represent a threat appear to be impulsive and unpredictable. The lack of security is increased further because the ongoing radicalisation and recruitment means that new players emerge in the threat picture. These are players who may be unknown to the police and PST until a terrorist activity ultimately occurs. 


Politically motivated violence: Right-wing and left-wing extremism

The organised right-wing and left-wing extremist groups appear to be less threatening to society than the extreme Islamist groupings. In some parts of the groups, however, there are individuals who may carry out violence against political opponents or representatives from religious or ethnic groups. Individuals and small groups, who operate independently from the organised extremist groups, will represent a big challenge in the year ahead.  

There has been an increase in politically extremist activities in Europe over the last couple of years, particularly among left-wing extremist and anarchist groups. This trend does not appear to affect the threat picture in Norway for the time being. 


Right-wing extremism

The traditional right-wing extremist groups in Norway consist of small and loose networks of individuals who share a strong opposition to immigration and display a significant distain for politicians and the authorities. The majority get their inspiration from different leanings, such as neo-nazism³ and anti-Islamism4. The Internet is the most important forum for the right-wing extremist activity. The groups continue to lack unifying and strong leaders and a unified ideological position. We do not expect any change to this in 2013. Right-wing extremists in Norway have international contacts and are inspired to an extent by groups abroad. At the same time it is mainly national states of affairs and trends that characterise the different groups. Events and trends abroad are therefore not expected to have a direct impact on the threat from right-wing extremists in Norway.  

The threat of violence from right-wing extremist groups and individuals will, however, be influenced by developments in other extremist groups in this country. Left-wing extremists have on different occasions in 2012 attacked right-wing extremist groups and individuals. Such attacks may lead to increased arming in parts of the right-wing extremist groups. In addition, the participation by extreme Islamists in public debate may also contribute to increased participation in and recruitment to right-wing extremist and particularly Islamophobic groups. A growing polarisation will increase the likelihood of violent confrontations between different extremist groups. Violent activity in Norway carried out by extreme Islamists will lead to threats and an increased possibility of violence from Islamophobic groups. 

The organised Islamophobic groups in Norway are relatively small. The groups are active on the Internet, but have little ability to mobilise and hold public demonstrations. Even though the organised groups denounce violence as a tool, they attract individuals who give the impression that they have violent attitudes. In the past year several of the Islamophobic groups have actively sought to prevent their organisations functioning as a base for extremism by excluding members who make utterances supporting violence. 

The threat in Norway from political extremism is first and foremost connected to individuals with extremely varying degrees of connection to organised groups or communities. Such individuals often identify themselves ideologically with an organisation without necessarily communicating with them. A common trend is that they display a strong hatred of the authorities. Similarly we see that extremists who encourage or threaten the use of violence have views based on conspiracy theories5 and a strong disdain for politicians. They blame the authorities for treason and for oppressing the Norwegian population. Many see a strong disdain for politicians and hatred of the authorities as more important than any opposition to Islam and Muslims.

Anders Behring Breivik will continue to be an inspiration for individuals in Norway and internationally. There are several examples indicating that foreign sympathisers have planned terrorist attacks inspired by Brevik's acts. It is also possible that Norwegian sympathisers may attempt to carry out violent acts. These may be inspired by Breivik as a person, his ideological message, as well as his acts. Even though most sympathisers in Norway have distanced themselves from the terrorist attack on the island of Utøya, there are several who support the attack on government headquarters and the government.  

Extremists who fall outside of the traditional extremist categories will represent a significant part of the threat picture in 2013. While politically extremist groups in Norway have previously been characterised by individuals who ideologically identify themselves with the extremities of a right/left axis, the current picture is somewhat more fragmented. Several extremist individuals get elements from different sources of inspiration, without identifying themselves with a clear ideological position. This type of extremist often has key enemies strongly based on conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theoretical websites have created forums where individuals may develop and strengthen their beliefs. The conspiracy theories that are presented on these websites seldom contain direct requests to commit acts of violence. The theorists claim to uncover states of affairs that are extremely serious. Conspiracy theorists believe they are some of the few chosen ones who have discovered the lies that dominate society. Some may therefore be of the belief that they have a duty to act. In some instances the conspiracy thoughts will be characterised by paranoid views that tend towards mental illness. Individuals who represent a real threat may be able to hide their violent intentions in discussions with others, or quit any groups in which they have been participating. 


Left-wing extremism

There are small left-wing extremist6 groups in Norway, mainly in the largest cities. The groups have the ability to mobilise hundreds of activists for some demonstrations and commemorations. The groups contain some activists who are prepared to commit violent acts. The left-wing extremist groups' aim is first and foremost to prevent the rise of right-wing extremist groups and individuals in Norway.

There are reasons to believe that left-wing extremists carry out systematic mapping of individuals connected to the right-wing extremist groups in Norway. During the course of the last year there have on several occasions been violent confrontations between right-wing and left-wing extremists. It is mainly left-wing extremists who have provoked these situations. The left-wing extremist groups can represent a real threat to individuals who belong to right-wing extremist groups or who publicly utter strong anti-immigrant sentiments. Political parties on the right wing have also been subjected to violence and threats from left-wing extremists in connection with political election meetings. In the event that small parties associated with right-wing extremist ideologies put themselves up for election in the autumn, we expect left-wing extremist groups may use violence on and make threats to representatives from these parties during the election campaign.

We expect events abroad may cause violent activities among left-wing extremists in Norway. There have been previous instances where engagement in foreign policy issues has lead to violent demonstrations and damage to other countries' embassies. In recent years, however, we have seen fewer such events. There are still reasons to expect the groups will arrange demonstrations which may result in violence and property damage on the basis of foreign policy issues and events. Issues connected to the Middle East conflict have previously caused particular reaction. We expect this to continue to be the case in 2013.

In addition, we have observed that political matters in this country may cause reactions that affect the threat picture. As a rule it is challenging to predict which political issues would cause a reaction, and how strong these reactions would be. However, we must assume that individual cases related to asylum policy and issues related to financial situation may influence the left-wing extremist groups in 2013.


Threats to dignitaries

Dignitaries7 are in a position that involves the possibility that they may be subjected to annoying, unwanted and threatening attention from the public. The threat is mainly directed at important politicians with a high media profile, and often in connection with controversial subjects. Such threats may be an expression of an individual's frustration and desire for change, but may also be connected to a group's desire to spread its political, ideological or religious message. 2013 is an election year with many political debates and heightened attention on members of parliament and of the government. These persons are expected to experience an increase in annoying or threatening conduct by members of the public, as a result of increased exposure in connection with the election campaign.

The majority of those who present threats to Norwegian dignitaries are thought to be psychologically unstable8. There is generally little alignment between the threats that are made and the actual desire and capacity to carry out the threatened act. Experience from other European countries indicates that those who in fact attack a dignitary, do so without making threats in advance. Often the individual will in one way or another have indicated a strong dissatisfaction with, or have had a worrying focus on, the dignitary in advance of the attack. In some instances the attack has been spontaneous and without warning. 

The exchange of views on different blogs, Internet communities, social media and online newspapers' forums of debate has been an important part of the discourse. Both individuals and groups with extreme views actively use the Internet to promote their views. In time, some have noticed that both indirect and direct threats directed at dignitaries provide much attention and provoke debate. Some dignitaries themselves are also active and accessible on such media, which in turn makes them more exposed to threats and other unwanted approaches. 

Following the terrorist attacks on 22 July 2011, we have recorded an increase in threatening and hateful utterances on the Internet directed at key politicians from the Norwegian Labour Party. The utterances came primarily from lone players inspired by right-wing extremist and anti-Islamic views. This appears to have been a passing phenomenon, and during 2012 there has been a decrease in this type of utterance. In 2013 we expect that the Internet will continue to be the most important forum for players who express hatred of the authorities, but that these will be less connected till a specific extremist political leaning. Furthermore, it is expected that key dignitaries will to an increasing extent become the subject of hate rhetoric from groups with an unclear mix of extremist views and conspiracy theoretical positions.


Intelligence activity

A large number of foreign states' intelligence services are active in Norway. An increasingly fierce global competition to secure economic growth, access to resources and technological development, as well as the need to protect their own security interests, are the driving forces behind the activities of these services. Some foreign intelligence services represent a threat to Norway because their intention is often to cheat, bribe and influence to secure an advantage for their home country. Some foreign countries' services may also be involved in activity that is intended to facilitate sabotage.  

Intelligence activity directed at Norway and Norwegian interests is carried out continually, at a consistently high level and is directed towards a wide spectrum of targets. We expect the activity to be particularly directed towards security and civil defence issues as well as technological, financial and political targets. In addition, several states will continue their espionage directed at refugee communities in Norway and try to compile an overview of, threaten and frighten dissidents and political activists who are resident here.  

In this year's threat assessment we will highlight three trends that are particularly worrying. The first trend relates to how Norwegian research and development communities are exploited in the work to strengthen the modernisation and capacity development of other countries' armed forces. The second is how intelligence is used to support other countries' positions in the high North. The third relates to foreign intelligence services' attempts to infiltrate the justice and civil defence sectors.


Intelligence activity directed at Norwegian research and technology communities

A large number of states have put in place extensive defence reforms. Several of these have as a target the large-scale replacement and updating of existing equipment, as well as to build new capacity. In this process the intelligence services have been tasked with supporting activity that would increase the national capacity for development, innovation and the production of military equipment. Some services operating in this country will on this basis be able to steal relevant information from Norwegian research and development communities, through computer network operations and with the support of insiders. Such industrial espionage will, among other things, be carried out through attempts by the intelligence services to exploit or place students and researchers within relevant research communities and companies.  

We also see that certain foreign services operating in Norway are involved in facilitating closer co-operation between Norwegian technology communities and their own country's business sector. Such initiatives have as a rule a civilian basis. At the same time, requests related to co-operation are directed at communities that also support the Norwegian armed forces, or that produce dual use technology. The intelligence services therefore exploit the opportunities that are presented through increased international commercial and research co-operation in recent years. This represents a new route to state sponsored industrial espionage, where the aim is more effectively to obtain technological secrets and the ability to develop relevant technology for defence related use.

A broad spectrum of Norwegian civilian technology companies represents potential targets for such intelligence activities. Many civilian technologies can also be used for military purposes. For example, nano and biosciences, medicine, IT and space research, arctic petroleum technology and ships and shipyard technology, in addition to some niche areas within physics and engineering. All of these areas are expected to be targets for foreign intelligence services.


International positioning in the High North

The thawing of areas in the Arctic has created new research demands for several countries. A number of countries have their own targets connected to the exploitation of resources and the use of the Arctic and High North. Through, among other things, their intelligence services, several countries are trying to strengthen their own future commercial, security and shipping opportunities.   

Several states are working, among other things, to establish their own receiving stations for satellite data in the High North. However, these are stations that are also relevant in the development of their own intelligence capacity in the region. In addition, we have observed that the general level of activities directed at Arctic petroleum technology projects in the region, will also be subjected to intelligence activity in 2013. This also applies to Norwegian scientific communities who work with security, defence and energy policy connected to the High North. 


Infiltration of the justice and civil defence sectors

Other states' intelligence services are working to recruit Norwegian nationals to apply for positions with access to classified and sensitive information in the public sector. In recent years we have been particularly concerned about such efforts directed at the justice and civil defence sectors.  

The objective in establishing disloyal servants in the justice and civil defence sectors is, among other things, to establish access to classified documents relating to police data, informants, methods and civil defence plans. The infiltration of the justice and civil defence sectors could also weaken PST's ability to protect Norwegian interests from intelligence activity. Furthermore, it could also affect individuals' protection accorded by the law. 


Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction

A significant number of organisations in Norway possess know-how and technology that can be used in the development of weapons of mass destruction. This includes small and large organisations within civilian high technology sectors, the defence industry as well as a broad spectrum of research and development communities. The main targets in Norway for players who would like to develop weapons of mass destruction capacity are first and foremost found among these organisations. 

Most attempts to obtain technology from Norwegian organisations, which are relevant for weapons of mass destruction, can be linked to Iranian players. These are ongoing and attempt to connect contacts to possible business partners and individuals in positions within relevant organisations. 

In order to avoid export control regulations, they use different methods. One method is to transport goods via a number of different countries in order to create as much uncertainty as possible around the actual end user. They constantly create new transport routes, which are intended to confuse export control authorities. Another method is to establish nominee companies to purchase relevant technology for a weapons-of-mass-destruction programme. These nominee companies would also carry out an apparently lawful activity. In order to hide the connection with their country of origin from Norwegian players, we have observed that several of these companies have a European name and websites in European languages.  

In July 2012, the UN adopted several new sanctions against Iran, which entail export control in this country applying to a wider array of goods than previously. As a result, Iran is believed to have an increased need for technology from high tech countries, including Norway. Procurement players must also use unlawful methods in relation to more goods than previously, and are likely to have to change their methods to be better able to hide the procurement of technology that is the subject of sanctions.   

During the course of the past year we have observed a significant increase in Iranian visa applicants for work, research and study in subject areas that relate to dual use goods. Several of the visa applicants have reasons that are likely to be legitimate for applying for jobs and studies at Norwegian organisations and learning institutions. However, there are indications that some of these have deliberately attempted to obtain knowledge and competences within specific technological subjects, which may be of significance to Iran's nuclear programme.  

There is reason to expect that Norway will also be attractive in 2013 for Iranians who would like to work within Norwegian research and technology communities. Economic downturns in several European countries has led to reduced employment and cuts in companies and organisations, including within subject areas that may be applied to dual use technology. In addition, the largest countries in Europe have introduced several restrictions on Iranian applicants for research and studies. Therefore, there is currently a higher threshold for Iranian applicants to study or work in some European countries than in Norway.

1 The term extreme refers to a person's attitude to the use of violence. An extremist person or group accepts the use of violence to achieve political, religious or ideological objectives. Extremism therefore denotes solely the choice of means but not the objective.

2 Radicalisation is defined as a process by which a person increasingly accepts the use of violence as a means of achieving political, religious or ideological aims.

3 Neo-Nazism is based on nationalist-socialist ideology. Central to this leaning is the idea that there is a global Jewish conspiracy. Groups regarded as key enemies by Neo-Nazis include Jews, immigrants and anti-racists from the left-wing, and to an extent political leaders.

4 Anti-Islamism is based on ideas developed within the international ”Counter Jihad” movement. A central idea is the theory that there is a Muslim conspiracy that seeks to take over power in Europe. Key enemy figures for anti-Islamists are Muslims and Norwegian political leaders as well as the Norwegian press to an extent. 

5 Conspiracy theorists are individuals with a perspective that involves the belief that a group of powerful conspirators secretly and systematically control developments in society and set up events of critical significance to society. 

6 Left-wing extremists in Norway are individuals and groups who legitimise their use of violence through different extremist interpretation of anarchic, anti-racist and/or anti-capitalist ideology.  

7 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. 

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