A difficult day for Prime Minister Stoltenberg – the 22/7 commission lands the blame for failure to implement security measures on his door step

Yesterday must have been a surreal day for the Labor Party, waking up to a commission report that places the political responsibility for the security failings that were so tragically exposed after the 22/7 terror bombing and shooting in Oslo and Utøya.

VG called for Stoltenberg to step down as PM after the findings of the commissions report was made public, but an Aftenposten survey carried out yesterday concluded that the majority of Norwegians do not want the PM to go. Nevertheless, a political bomb was detonated, and the Storting will be convened early to discuss the findings and the necessary political consequences. It is highly doubtful that the PM will be forced to step down, he has a majority in the Storting and his two coalition partners, who in current polls find themselves up a creek without a paddle and voters, would be unlikely to throw out the PM, as well as themselves from the Government and very possibly also from any political representation in the Storting. You do not need to be a Nostradamus (nice Jewish chap by the way) to predict that the political season in Norway will be very hot and very uncomfortable for the powers that be.

Below, only two samples of the last few days’ tsunami of discontent against the PM and leading government ministers for their failure to implement security measures, which in all likelihood could have prevented the sick and barbaric terror attack by Anders Behring Breivik or other similarly deranged beings.

STOLTENBERG VOWS IMPROVEMENT

Views and News from Norway 2012 08 13

Nina Berglund

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg has promised major improvements to Norway’s emergency preparedness, after receiving official confirmation on Monday that the country was poorly prepared for last summer’s terrorist attacks. He apologized that approved security measures hadn’t been implemented before the attacks occurred, while police acknowledged severe weaknesses in their own response.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, shown here receiving the July 22 Commission’s report on the response to last year’s terrorist attacks, admitted that portions of the report are “uncomfortable.” He vowed improvements to Norway’s emergency preparedness. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor (SMK)

“We got what we asked for,” Stoltenberg said in referring to receipt of a highly critical report on how Norway responded to last year’s attacks. He readily admitted that some portions of the report by a commission he had appointed himself were “uncomfortable.”

He said he was most sorry that the street leading through the government complex, Grubbegata, hadn’t been blocked off as recommended repeatedly for years. There had been local resistance to closing the street from city politicians, who wanted to keep the government area of downtown open and accessible, and preserve a popular bus line through the area. It was, however, within the purview of the state to close the street and that hadn’t happened, allowing the terrorist to drive his bomb-laden bomb right up to government ministries including Stoltenberg’s own office, which was among those heavily damaged in the attacks.

Stoltenberg said he also was sorry that terrorist Anders Behring Breivik hadn’t been seized earlier, which the commission believes could have been possible if police had acted on a firm and detailed tip from a passerby who witnessed Breivik fleeing in a getaway car. Instead, the tip was ignored for as long as 20 minutes in the chaos following the bombing on July 22 last year. That allowed enough time for Breivik to head for the island of Utøya to carry out the next phase of his attack, a massacre at Utøya’s summer camp for young members of Stoltenberg’s Labour Party.

Accepting the criticism

Stoltenberg, who won praise for his leadership during the tragedy last year, now seems willing to accept the criticism for the nation’s lack of preparedness, not least on the part of the police. The police in Norway are under state jurisdiction, with the Justice Ministry ultimately responsible for their funding and operations. That in turn leaves the Prime Minister’s office responsible, since it has jurisdiction over the Justice Ministry.

“The commission’s report reveals widespread problems within the police,” Stoltenberg told reporters on Monday. “This is serious.” Stoltenberg already has replaced the former justice minister, and added “preparedness” to the new minister’s title. He said he now has already asked her, Grete Faremo, to tackle the criticism against the police in the report, and follow through on its recommendations for improvements.

“Our responsibility for security and preparedness in the ministry will be strengthened and clarified,” Stoltenberg said.

Chastened police

Police officials, meanwhile, appeared chastened on Monday, with state police director Øystein Mæland calling it “a very tough day for the police.” He said the police accepted the commission’s findings that faster action had been possible, and that the terrorist could have been stopped earlier. While their own internal investigation had resulted in the police claiming they had acted as quickly as they could, the commission’s conclusion was that the amount of time they used was “unacceptable.”

“That’s a tough conclusion … I feel the heavy responsibility for what went wrong within the police,” said Mæland, who assumed his post just two months before the attacks last year. He said the police were taking the criticism against them seriously “and will strive to address what’s been pointed out.”

Stoltenberg, however, remained the man who was taking most of the heat on Monday, a sharp contrast to the accolades he’s received earlier. Asked whether either he or any of his other ministers should resign as a result of the critical commission report, Stoltenberg said he thought it was better that he stick around to make sure the report is followed up and that preparedness is improved.

“I have responsibility for what functioned and didn’t function on July 22 last year,” Stoltenberg said. “Now it’s my responsibility to take responsibility for taking action now.”

REPORT FUEL CALLS FOR STOLTENBERG’S RESIGNATION

The Local 2012 08 14, NTB/The Local

Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg is coming under increasing pressure to resign after the publication of a report that slammed the state for its failure to prevent Anders Behring Breivik from killing 77 people last July.

The almost 500-page report by an independent commission concluded that the bomb attack in Oslo that killed eight people could have been hindered, while the suspect should have been arrested much earlier during his murderous shooting spree on the island of Utøya.

While Stoltenberg has received widespread praise for the strength of his compassion and resolve in the immediate aftermath of the atrocity, many now believe he must accept responsibility for the state’s failures and step down.

”Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg bears responsibility,” said Leif A. Leir, a former chief investigator with the Oslo police.

”He has to go now. Stoltenberg should also be accompanied by the heads of the Norwegian police force,” he told newspaper Dagbladet.

In an unsigned editorial on Tuesday, the large circulation newspaper Verdens Gang also urged the Labour Party leader to clear his prime ministerial desk.

”He has said himself that he admits responsibility for the consequences of July 22nd. Stoltenberg has a majority in parliament, which gives him the power to stay on. But he should have the decency to leave,” the paper said.

Harald Stanghelle, political editor with newspaper Aftenposten, wrote on Tuesday that the commission’s report represented a damning indictment of Stoltenberg’s administration.

The commentator noted that Stoltenberg had seemed to backtrack on Monday over how to define responsibility.

”He insisted that taking responsibility meant ensuring that this is now dealt with, rather than resigning and taking responsibility for everything that went wrong.”

Stanghelle said it remained to be seen how credible this approach would appear in the wake of a report he deemed ”strong enough to bring down most democratic governments.”

Former Conservative Party Prime Minister Kåre Willoch said Stoltenberg must be held to account for the state’s failure to prepare for a terrorist attack, a shortcoming that had enabled Breivik to park a car full of explosives in front of government buildings.

”After six years as head of government, Stoltenberg has had every opportunity to improve security in the government district,” Willoch told newspaper Klassekampen.

Anders Behring Breivik has confessed to carrying out the twin attacks, which primarily targeted the government and young members of the Labour Party, a group the killer charges with promoting the multiculturalism he hates.

After a ten-week trial earlier this year, the Oslo court is expected to present its verdict on August 24th.