Today the US government is providing Congress with its annual Worldwide Threat Assessment. That exercise includes the public release of threat assessments from the ODNI, and from the Defense Intellligence Agency. I've often wondered whether what we see is what others see.
Today, happily, we have a chance for a modest comparison that will be of some interest. The Norwegian Police Security Service (PST) is Norway's rough equivalent of Britain's MI-5. Today, it too released its annual threat assessment for Norway. An English language version is available. An excerpt from their public summary captures the flavor of their concerns:
PST expects that the threats to Norway and Norwegian interests in 2016 will continue to form a complex and varied picture. Assessing future threats will involve reviewing large quantities of unverified information from many different sources.
Events in other countries will also have direct and indirect effects on the security situation in Norway. Developments in the national threat picture are in other words difficult to predict. Unforeseen incidents may have far-reaching consequences, and developments may take an unexpected course.
Norway is situated in a part of the world with a tradition of resolving problems between states by political means. However, security policy developments over the last few years give cause for concern. A larger number of states are using their intelligence services in ways that could undermine or weaken our national interests.
State intelligence services cannot be prosecuted. On the other hand, Norwegian actors can do much to uncover, prevent and reduce the harm caused by such activities. In order for the security situation to continue to be stable, it is vital that the Norwegian state maintains its ability to control its territory and exercise its sovereignty.
With regard to threats from non-state actors, there are now, at the beginning of 2016, two factors in particular that could have major consequences. One depends on how far the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and possibly other terrorist groups will manage to carry out terrorist attacks in Western countries. We consider it possible that extreme Islamists will attempt to carry out such attacks in Norway in the course of the coming year.
Another factor that will affect the threat picture is the streams of refugees and asylum-seekers who have arrived in Norway and Western Europe and who may continue to arrive in large numbers in 2016.