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The NSA Helps Norway Conduct Illegal Mass Surveillance

A top secret satellite listening post in Norway that has been, and continues to be, supported by the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA) is helping to conduct illegal mass surveillance programs. The Norwegian Intelligence Service constructed the secret satellite surveillance station on an old military base in 2000. The base is known by the codename VICTORY GARDEN, and it was claimed that the base had been created for the purpose of supporting the Norwegian armed forces who deployed outside of the country, and also for counterterrorism purposes. However, the mass surveillance programs being run at the Norwegian VICTORY GARDEN listening post illegally surveil the private electronic communications and data, such as phone calls, social media accounts, and emails, of both Norwegians as well as foreigners.

“We have been uncertain about whether the manner in which E-tjenesten [the Norwegian Intelligence Service] has carried out its assignments has been adequately in line with today’s laws. We’ve had a need for a clarification that what they’re doing is legal,” the former Norwegian Minister of Defense Eldbjørg Løwer told the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK). “The most important thing for us is to see that E-tjenesten isn’t conducting surveillance of Norwegians in Norway. That’s not their job, and it’s a very important control point for us,” the former Defense Minister added.

Norwegian Member of Parliament Abid Raja of the Liberal Party told NRK that the situation was “serious” and “very disturbing” for the legislature. Another Member of Parliament, Bjørnar Moxnes of the Reds Party, has said he believes that it is “unforgivable” for the government of Norway to “have set up American spying and surveillance programs on Norwegian soil, and kept it secret from Norwegian citizens. That’s a betrayal, also against Norwegian self-governance.” Moxnes is calling for all of the data that is being stored, that is from or about Norwegians, to be deleted at once.

In 2017 the then Minister of Defense toured the VICTORY GARDEN listening post and announced to the press that 400 million Norwegian kroners (or 25 million US dollars) would be spent on purchasing even more satellite equipment, strengthening Norway’s cyber defense. But while the Norwegian Intelligence Services cooperation and partnership with the American NSA may have expanded in the years after the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001, the sharing of surveillance between Norwegian and American intelligence agencies has been going on for nearly 70 years.

During World War II the United States Department of War (now the Department of Defense) and the United Kingdom’s Government Code & Cypher School (GC&CS, now GCHQ) created an intelligence alliance which was first signed in 1943 as the BRUSA Communication Intelligence Agreement, and then formalized as a secret treaty known as the UKUSA Agreement in 1946. During the 1950s this intelligence alliance was expanded to include Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, and this alliance continues on today, known as FIVE EYES. However, under the UKUSA Agreement and FIVE EYES, several other countries partnered with the intelligence sharing alliance as “third party members.” The secret treaty was extended to include Norway and the country became a third party participant of the agreement in 1952.

FIVE EYES has been expanded with different tiers which are more restrictive in sharing with the additional countries, these are known as NINE EYES and 14 EYES. Norway is a member of NINE EYES, which also includes the original FIVE EYES countries as well as France, Denmark, and the Netherlands. Norway’s membership in NINE EYES would suggest that their intelligence services have a closer relationship with the FIVE EYES than the 14 Eyes countries, which includes the NINE EYES countries as well as Germany, Italy, Belgium, Spain, and Sweden.

During the Cold War this intelligence alliance created a program to conduct global mass surveillance on satellite signals. This program is known as FROSTING and had two subprograms, TRANSIENT, which monitored Soviet and military satellites, and ECHELON, which monitored non-military communications satellites. The ECHELON and TRANSIENT sub-programs of the FROSTING program appear to have been merged into one program, referred to as FORNSAT. VICTORY GARDEN is in fact a satellite listening station for the FORNSAT satellite mass surveillance network. According to documents released by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the VICTORY GARDEN listening station could monitor 130 foreign satellites as of mid-2006.

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