Theater of Cruelty

Bombing the embassies

A Norway in fear spends millions of dollars on terrorizing Norwegian embassies abroad.


By Tarjei Leer-Salvesen

The attacks on the embassies in Damascus and Beirut in connection with

The Mohammed caricatures cast a blow on the Norwegian authorities. Bomb-proof windows are installed, and walls are erected around Norway abroad. However, the authorities dare not talk about it, for fear that terrorists will bomb before everything is clear.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is upgrading the security at a large number of Norwegian embassies and consulates general, but will not release specific figures on what this costs. Nor will they provide a comprehensive overview of the new, physical security measures that are being implemented, but Ny Tid is aware that these are foreign service missions in a large number of countries. A review of the Foreign Ministry's postal journal for the period following the attacks on the embassies in Beirut and Damascus shows, among other things, the following:

  • The chancellor and embassy cars will be secured against bomb splinters in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
  • An extensive security wall is to be built around the embassy in Amman, Jordan.
  • The embassy in Bratislava, Slovakia, will have the windows secured.
  • Bomb protection of the windows is also introduced at the embassy in Khartoum, Sudan.
  • A number of new security measures are being introduced for the representative office in Al Ram, Gaza, as well as for the housing of the employees.

In addition, measures have been initiated at the embassies in Guatemala City, Mexico City, Madrid, Kabul and Tehran, as well as the Consulates General in Juba and Shanghai, and thorough security inspections have been carried out at the embassies in London, Washington and Bangkok.

"In light of the events of the past year, a critical review and possible strengthening of the general security of Norwegian foreign service missions and residences is needed," the draft state budget for 2007 notes.

Afraid of details

This series of cases paints a picture of a country that sees its own role in the world as more vulnerable. Norway is counting on, or preparing for, more serious crime and terrorist acts. But when Ny Tid calls to ask about the work that is going on, the people of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are not very talkative.

Øystein B. Svebo, department director at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' Unit for Property Management at the foreign service missions, says it is not appropriate to give a proper interview on how it works with security. He is scared to comment on the plans.

- Then someone can get us in advance, if they plan actions, he says.

- The caricature case put increased focus on security at Norwegian foreign service missions. Norway has not previously experienced that national symbols such as the flag, coat of arms and embassy buildings have been legitimate targets for groups that want to harm Norwegian interests, says communications adviser Anders Rikter at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Ny Tid.

He says that, in the first instance, measures have been implemented on a selection of priority specialist stations where the threat is considered the greatest and security most vulnerable.

- The level of physical security at foreign stations depends on the station's geographical location and local threat, as well as whether the embassy is established in an office building or as a free-standing building, Rikter says.

Securing the foreign service stations can be divided into three main areas:

Terror Fuse.

Measures can be to achieve distance to buildings, film on glass panes to prevent glass from spreading by a pressure wave (bomb), fences, obstacles, electronic surveillance (ITV), guards, etc.

Personnel Fuse.

Measures such as bulletproof glass in receptions and adjoining rooms that provide public access. Locking devices for access control, guards, electronic monitoring, and so on.

Information Security.

Measures to prevent burglary. Graded information is secured in accordance with the provisions of the Security Act.

- For foreign service missions that are established in detached buildings or as separate apartment buildings, security will be a more comprehensive process, says Anders Rikter.

Prepared for a lot

In addition to the aforementioned security measures, windows and much more doors must be secured in these buildings.

- Measures can be lattice, safety glass and extra locking. One may encounter problems in securing adequate, where the provisions of protected buildings must be taken into account. Compensation for such "lack of shell protection" can be electronic monitoring, says Rikter.

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will continue to develop the necessary structure, continue the foreign service's technological upgrading, and continue to place great emphasis on training and exercise in the ministry and at the foreign service stations in order to be best equipped to deal with crisis situations around the world," the state budget states.

What this means in pure numbers is not possible for Ny Tid to determine, and the ministry will not shed light on the matter.

However, a new item 45 has been created for major equipment purchases under budget chapter 100 of the new budget. The post is worth NOK 16 million and, as we understand it, will go to such purposes. Many of the improvements made in the current year also take the form of additional grants.

In addition to securing the Norwegian embassies in other countries, extra money is also spent on securing and repairing damage to foreign embassies in Norway. This pot has been increased from a modest NOK 43.000 which could cover lighter vandalism in 2005, to more than NOK 800.000 for next year.

You may also like