The head of the Norwegian Police Security Service (PST), Benedicte Bjørnland, was recently a participating guest at a security conference in Sweden, where she warned against further Muslim immigration.
One cannot," she said, "assume that new arrivals will automatically adapt to the norms and rules of Norwegian society. Furthermore, new arrivals are not homogenous and can bring ethnic and religious strife with them... If parallel societies, radicalization and extremist environments emerge in the long run," she added, "We will have challenges as a security service."
The changes Bjørnland speaks of -- parallel societies, radicalization and extremist environments -- are nothing new; they have been proliferating throughout Western Europe for years. The Brussels suburb of Molenbeek, which was home to two of the perpetrators of November's terror attacks in Paris, is known as a "terrorist den." Yet the mayor of Molenbeek ignored a list she received, one month prior to the Paris attacks, "with the names and addresses of more than 80 people suspected as Islamic militants living in her area," according to the New York Times. "What was I supposed to do about them? It is not my job to track possible terrorists," Mayor Schepmans said. "That is the responsibility of the federal police."
This statement is, in many ways, symptomatic of the European failure to deal with the security problems that Europe faces. The problem is always supposed to be somebody else's.
Anders Thornberg, the head of the Swedish Security Service (SÄPO), literally begged Swedish society for help: "The Islamist environments have grown considerably in the past five years," he said "and tensions are growing between various population groups. We need all of society to help fight the radicalization, there are limits to how much faster a security service can run."
Swedish Security Service chief Anders Thornberg recently said: "The Islamist environments have grown considerably in the past five years and tensions are growing between various population groups. We need all of society to help fight the radicalization, there are limits to how much faster a security service can run."
These are sentiments that are rarely, if ever, voiced by official Norway or Sweden. Apparently, the fear of offending Muslim sensitivities has thus far overridden security concerns. But even Sweden, which sees itself as a "humanitarian superpower," and up until recently had sworn to keep its doors open to all migrants and refugees, has had to reassess its policy. At the end of November 2015, Sweden's Deputy-Prime Minister Asa Romson, reluctantly and in tears, said that the government had been "forced to take reality into account," given the huge number of migrants that entering the country. Sweden (and Denmark) tightened their border controls a few weeks ago.
It is questionable, however, whether the warning cries of the Scandinavian security services will have any noticeable impact on the fundamental political course of their political leaders, especially if the latest statements by Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven are anything to take into account.
In an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos on January 21, Löfven declared that it was "wrong" to mix up either sexual assaults on European women or the threat of ISIS with the mass migration into Europe: "Sexual harassment is not automatically binding to migration and immigration. We have had sexual harassment in Sweden for many, many years, unfortunately," Löfven told CNBC, thus pretending that the imported Middle Eastern pastime of Taharrush [collective sexual harassment] of thousands of women in Cologne and other European cities on New Year's Eve had nothing to do with migrants.
"What it now takes is to be very clear that this is not appropriate, it is absolutely out of line and we need to take a very clear message now to show to these young girls and women they are of course entitled to walk in the city... without sexual harassment," Löfven added.
No, the girls and the women are not the ones in need of a "clear message." The men harassing and raping them are -- especially in a country now known as the rape capital of the West.
The Swedish prime minister's refusal to "deal with reality" -- including that ISIS terrorists enter Europe together with the migrants -- is disturbing and should be of immense concern to Swedish citizens. It also displays the huge gap in perception of the current situation between the Swedish Security Service and the Swedish government.
The head of the Swedish Security Service has every reason, it turns out, to beg Swedish society to help fight the security challenges Sweden is facing. Considering the current Swedish government, he is going to need all the help he can get.
The additional gap between the genuine concerns of various countries' intelligence and security services on one hand, and governments' fear of offending Muslim sensibilities and venturing beyond the politically correct "narratives" on the other hand, is not confined to Sweden, but evident across Western Europe.
European intelligence and security services have warned for a long time that -- given the increase of mainly Muslim migration and the ensuing growth of parallel societies and extremist environments -- they cannot keep up with the ever-increasing threats of jihadist terrorism, which in the past decade have grown exponentially.
In the Netherlands, the Dutch jihadist movement began a far-reaching process of becoming more professional in late 2010, and adopted propaganda methods developed by British jihadists. "The increasing momentum of Dutch jihadism poses an unprecedented threat to the democratic legal order of the Netherlands," stated the Dutch intelligence service, AIVD, in the autumn of 2014.
In Germany, the intelligence agencies warned in the early fall of 2015 that, "We are importing Islamic extremism, Arab anti-Semitism, national and ethnic conflicts of other peoples, as well as a different understanding of society and law."
Four major German security agencies made it clear that "German security agencies... will not be in the position to solve these imported security problems and thereby the arising reactions from Germany's population." Still, this dire warning, which was leaked to the German press, did not cause Germany's Chancellor, Angela Merkel, to change her open-door policy. While Germany has introduced border controls, 2000 asylum claims are still processed there every day.
In Britain, the MI5 has openly declared that it cannot stop all terrorist attacks on English soil. In October 2015, Andrew Parker, director general of the Security Service, said that the "scale and tempo" of the danger to the UK is now at a level he has not seen in his 32-year career. He warned that while the threat to the UK from ISIS is on the rise, MI5 can "never" be confident in stopping all terror plots.
Little wonder. British police are monitoring over 3,000 homegrown Islamist extremists who are willing to carry out attacks on the UK, British security sources have warned. That is a 50% increase in less than a decade. Already in November 2014, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, told an international terrorism conference that 25% of the population growth in the UK had arrived in London in the last 10 years, and poses big challenges for the police force, who could not keep up with the pace of immigration.
The difficulties in properly monitoring so many extremists and effectively preventing them from committing acts of terror has also become a tremendous challenge, compounded by the sheer volume of extremists. Dame Stella Rimington, former head of the MI5, estimated in June 2013 that it would take around 50,000 full-time MI5 spies to monitor 2,000 extremists or potential terrorists 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That would be more than 10 times the number of people currently employed by MI5.
The situation is not much different in many other European countries. In Germany, Hans-Georg Maassen, head of Germany's BfV domestic security agency, claimed that his office was aware of almost 8,000 Islamic radicals in Germany. He said that all of these extremists advocate violence to advance their goals, with some trying to win over migrants, and that his office receives one or two 'fairly concrete tips' of planned terrorist activity each week.
Most European countries, such as Germany, Britain and France, are operating at their highest terror alert ever. The intelligence services are trying to cope with a situation beyond anything one could have imagined a decade ago.
The fight against the terrorist threat is never going to be won, however, only by pouring more financial resources and manpower into the counter-terrorism effort, although that is of course a necessary first step. As long as the national political leaders who give orders to the security and intelligence services refuse to openly address the threat without shrouding the issue in politically correct language, they will never be able to reduce it, let alone eliminate it.
Judith Bergman is a writer, columnist, lawyer and political analyst.