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Posted at 9:50 AM ET, 12/ 8/2010

Clinton, Norway foreign minister discuss 'spying' uproar

By Jeff Stein

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton huddled with her Norwegian counterpart Tuesday as the country's furor over U.S. embassy “spying” operations there spiked even higher with the WikiLeaks release of a cable revealing the American ambassador complaining about the country’s antiterrorism police.

Norway’s media has been roiling for weeks with investigative reports alleging that U.S. embassy security officials aggressively recruited informants without the consent of Norwegian authorities.

Clinton and Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere discussed the issue in Foggy Bottom Tuesday afternoon, according to the State Department, which did not reveal the substance of their talk.

“The Secretary welcomed the opportunity to discuss our Surveillance Detection Program with Foreign Minister Stoere today and to reiterate our commitment to address any questions the Government of Norway might have on this or any other matter,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in response to a query from SpyTalk. “We appreciate the support we receive from friends like Norway to keep our Embassies safe for our personnel and our visitors.”

Despite the placid rhetoric, however, tensions between the longtime allies were hardening.

Back in Oslo, the country’s justice minister was publicly denouncing the remarks of U.S. Ambassador Barry White, revealed in a private cable released by WikiLeaks, characterizing Norway’s PST special police intelligence unit as “in over its head” in a counterterrorism investigation.

Justice Minister Knut Storberget “went on national radio Tuesday morning to denounce the American criticism, claiming that Norway is doing a good job with its anti-terrorism efforts,” according to an Oslo media report.

Storberget added a sting to his remarks, according to the report, noting that “the U.S. ‘has another tradition’ for fighting terrorism, telling Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that he’s not sure it’s any more successful.”

White’s remarks, made in a private report to the State Department in November 2009, evidently discomfited Norwegian officials all the more for surfacing only days after he praised the PST in an Oslo newspaper interview.

By Jeff Stein  | December 8, 2010; 9:50 AM ET
Categories:  Foreign policy, Intelligence  | Tags:  Hillary Clinton, Jonas Gahr Stoere, Knut Storberget  
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