A state provocateur in Norway
reports on revelations about a decade-long operation to infiltrate left-wing organizations in Norway, including the International Socialists.
REVELATIONS ABOUT a police infiltrator in the social movements were front-page news in Norway last week. NRK (Norsk Rikskringkasting, the Norwegian state broadcaster) aired a documentary in its investigative program Brennpunkt, in which a police informant by the name of Christian Høibø told his story.
Høibø says he was an informant for the PST (Politiets Sikkerhetstjeneste, Norway's federal security agency, similar to the FBI) for 10 years. From 2002 to 2012, he gave the PST information about, among others, the International Socialists (IS) and Blitz, an anarchist/autonomist collective). He joined the IS in 2002, but later dropped out to infiltrate Blitz instead. Høibø's claim of being an informant is not in question. The PST has confirmed it.
While Høibø was a member of the IS, he apparently made copies of the group's membership list and subscribers to its publications. During his time as a PST informant, he argued in favor of confronting the police physically and actively engaging in such activity on demonstrations. At one point, he was apparently arrested while making Molotov cocktails, but never charged due to intervention by the PST. He says the PST encouraged such activity.
At one point, Høibø traveled to London for the annual conference of Britain's Socialist Workers Party, allegedly to investigate IS members' ties to the Colombian FARC. One of the IS members he traveled with is a prominent historian and has written books on the oil industry and imperialism. If the PST had him under surveillance during his research trips abroad, it will also have been watching his travel partners, which included a former president of one of the major unions in the Norwegian oil industry.
In a statement, the International Socialists demanded a halt to all surveillance:
The PST says that the infiltrator has "done a great job for us," and the program also reveals that they have hired a new infiltrator. This shows that the PST is still watching the left.
The International Socialists demand halt to surveillance of legitimate political organizations and their members and sympathizers..."Activists demonstrating for a just world are obviously a bigger threat to the PST than right-wing extremists" said Susan Lyden, a longstanding member of the IS.
"The International Socialists is an open and democratic organization. We are an active participant in the great popular movements against war, capitalism, racism and crisis. If this is frightening for the government, it is hard to believe them when they talk about more transparency and democracy," adds Monika Ustad from the International Socialists.
NORWEGIAN SOCIAL movement activists have noted that Høibø's story is full of inaccuracies, exaggerations, half-truths and outright lies. He has been described as "a clown" and "notoriously unreliable."
No doubt, he had a strange personality. During his years as a PST informant, he also participated in Norwegian versions of the reality shows Survivor and Fear Factor. But while an analysis of the accuracy of his story is important, this misses the point. The PST's confirmation of his work for them, and his political espousal of aggressive political tactics, means that the Norwegian authorities had a provocateur within the social movements of the early 21st century.
It was always suspected that the authorities in Europe used provocateurs within the movements to justify crackdowns on demonstrators, most notably in Genoa, Italy, in 2001, when Carlo Giuliani was killed by police. The implication of Høibø's story is that the same was happening in Norway.
This raises the question as to what extent there was a European-wide coordination of these methods of repression. Indeed, Høibø has also stated that the PST was in touch with him when he traveled to protests in Rostock, Germany, in 2007 and Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2009.
Institutional criminalization of dissent is not without precedent in Norway. In the 1990s, an official report to parliament, written by the Lund Commission, showed how the POT (Politiets Overvåkingstjeneste, the PST's predecessor) used informers within the labor movement, as well as wiretaps, to keep tabs on anything considered to be subversive activity after the second World War. In a comparative study of Scandinavian inquiries on secret service activities, Swedish criminologist Janne Flyghed summarized some of the Lund Commission's findings:
The inquiry stated that the Norwegian state's registration of communists and communist sympathizers through this monitoring had been very extensive. Nor had its extent started to decline until 1989.
One remarkable fact in this context is that POT had also registered minors. The registration of school pupils had involved the use of informants, probably drawn from "among the student body." In the so-called subject archive of the security police, lists were found of children who had travelled to Albania in the 1970s. An 11-year-old was registered in 1973 as a likely participant at a summer camp.
An extraordinary example of the secret service monitoring of Norwegian citizens was revealed 25 years later. It was discovered that one of the members of the commission, history professor Berge Furre, had been monitored while he was working for the commission.
IN A weird twist to Høibø's story, subsequent to his infiltration of the activist left, he apparently participated in organizing the Norwegian Defense League (NDL, a Norwegian chapter of the racist, anti-immigrant English Defense League).
This certainly raises further questions of Høibø's and the PST's activities. In July 2011, 83 people were murdered by the Nazi lunatic Anders Behring Breivik, a former supporter of the NDL--77 of them were killed at a camp organized by the Norwegian Labor Party's youth organization on an island outside Oslo.
The PST has claimed that 90 percent of its work during Høibø's time as a PST informant was directed toward fascist extremism. If that truly was the case, it seems odd that Breivik was able to do what he did. The day before the NRK documantary aired, the PST released its "annual threat assessment," which points to "militant Islamism" as the main threat to national security. The document blatantly ignores the fact that every single act of terrorism in Norway since the Second World War has been committed by fascists.
After Breivik's mass murders, Labor Party Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg proclaimed that the response to such an attack needed to be "more transparency and democracy." Yet as late as December 2012, Høibø was being asked for information about the IS. Apparently, the slogans of transparency and democracy don't apply to legitimate political organizing.