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Archive for SDU (Surveillance Detection Unit)

Newsline: US Oslo embassy spy case goes cold

Since the announcement of the spying scandal nothing more appears to have happened. Reports that the US embassy systematically spied on Norwegian citizens broke in November after the controversial website WikiLeaks published secret American diplomatic cables. The round-the-clock surveillance operation by the group of up to 20 SDU (Surveillance Detection Unit) agents, consisting of former police, defence, and private security staff, started in the spring of 2000. It was set up to monitor Norwegian citizens whom the US embassy alleged acted suspiciously. Surveillance took place from the sixth floor of the Handelsbygningen building, several hundred metres west of the embassy. SDU personnel collected detailed information about individuals, including video footage. The information was passed on to US embassy staff, where it was disseminated and subsequently stored in the worldwide anti-terror SIMAS database. Last year, Justice Minister Knut Storberget announced a public inquiry into the matter, after facing considerable pressure from politicians and diplomats alike. Nevertheless, theUSembassy was insistent that it followed all Norwegian laws in allowing the SDU to operate on Norwegian soil.  Shortly afterwards it emerged that the Americans may even have been armed and carrying concealed weapons around Norwegian streets. The US embassy denied that its Oslo personnel were routinely armed, however. Norwegian police had a difficult time investigating the matter, as none of those involved could be questioned beforeWashingtonrevoked their oath of silence earlier this year. Although American embassy staff had reportedly informed Oslo police of their surveillance activities, the official enquiry found that no laws had been broken, meaning there was nothing that the Norwegian authorities could do about the scandal. Norway’s Prosecuting Authority now says the matter has been dropped.