Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson cautioned it would be “irresponsible” to believe terrorism cannot happen in Iceland, and that it is “inevitable” that authorities look into whether or not to grant police the authority to conduct “proactive investigations” – the act of investigating people not suspected of committing a crime or conspiring to do so.
RÚV reports that Sigmundur was recently asked for his thoughts on a recent assessment report from the police, “The Police Commissioner’s Assessment Of The Risk Of Terrorism And Other Large-Scale Attacks”. This report contends that a wide swath of people – from left to right of the political spectrum, and foreigners in particular – could pose a significant terrorist threat to Iceland, while the police do not possess the authority to engage in “proactive investigations.”
“I think it’s inevitable that we look into [granting this authority],” the Prime Minister said. “Ten years ago, I would have said there was no need. Five years ago, I would have had my doubts. But given what we see today, and what we hear from the police, it would be very irresponsible not to look into it. We have seen in neighbouring countries that such an authority has prevented all kinds of terrorist attacks.”
In order to completely rule out any chance of a terrorist attack, the police propose a number of increased powers, amongst them:
“Consideration must be given to legislation on increased investigative powers of the police against offenses against the government, i.e., terrorism. It is recommended that a cooperative platform be created between the police, social services and health authorities with increased power to gather information on individuals who may pose a threat to public safety. Social resources should be created for those who have been exposed to radicalism.”
This refers to a recent proposal from police for the power to conduct what they call “proactive investigations”, an idea that Minister of the Interior Ólöf Norðdal believes “should be examined”. The idea, which has been proposed without success in years previous, would give police the right to investigate anyone, at any time, even if they were not suspected of having committed a crime or to be planning to do so. The rationale behind proactive investigations is to assist police in “the fight against organised crime, both foreign and domestic, human trafficking, drug smuggling, and terrorist threats”.
“Yes, it would be irresponsible to assume that [terrorism] couldn’t happen in Iceland,” Sigmundur said. “We have to take certain measures, like they have done in neighbouring countries, to prevent such from happening, though of course we hope that our society will continue to be as peaceful as it has been.”
In their new assessment, the police also emphasise not just increasing “capabilities”, but that their operations should also “be based on the policy regarding new Icelanders and asylum seekers which ensures stability in our society and eases assimilation into it”. They also mentioned that the number of tourists visiting Iceland in 2014 “was three times the population”.
In terms of who could pose a threat to Icelandic society, the net is cast wide. While Iceland “is not a top priority on the agenda of terrorist organisations”, the police emphasise that “it would only take a small group of extremists to do a great deal of damage”. With this in mind, the police say, they have outlined a number of possible threats.
The Islamic State (IS) is given special attention, not least of all for using an Icelandic domain name for one of their websites, which has since been shut down. However, “left-wing extremists”, “anarchists”, and “right-wing extremists” are also cited as potential threats.
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