Oslo – The prime minister of Norway acknowledged on Wednesday that his country had fundamentally changed as a result of the attacks on a youth camp and government complex last week, but he vowed to protect the culture of openness that is a source of Norwegian pride.
The attacks have prompted officials to start reassessing Norway’s policy on public security, which seemed defined by a belief that bad things happen elsewhere. Anders Behring Breivik, a self-described Christian crusader who has admitted to the attacks, appeared to face few obstacles when he detonated a car bomb on a busy government plaza last Friday, killing 8 people, then traveled 19 miles and took a ferry to the youth camp on the island of Utoya, where he slaughtered at least 68 people.
“It’s absolutely possible to have an open, democratic, inclusive society, and at the same time have security measures and not be naive,” Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg told reporters in Oslo. “I think what we have seen is that there is going to be one Norway before and one Norway after July 22,” he said. “But I hope and also believe that the Norway we will see after will be more open, a more tolerant society than what we had before.”
Mr. Stoltenberg announced that the government would create a commission independent of the police to investigate the attacks as well as law enforcement agencies’ response to them.
The police have come under fire for the seemingly slow pace of their response. It took commandos about 90 minutes to reach the island, a delay that critics say likely cost dozens of lives. Helicopters were unavailable, and police had to commandeer civilian boats to reach the island.
Police officers from the precinct in Honefoss, close to Utoya, offered new details about the operation in a news conference on Wednesday.
Havard Gasbakk, the duty commander at the precinct, said that 10 commandos took two civilian boats to reach the island. His colleague Magne Rustad said that one of the boats encountered engine trouble but that it did not cause significant delays. By the time police officers arrived Mr. Breivik seemed satisfied with the extent of his killing. They found him standing with his hands behind his head, his weapons thrown to the ground.
Mr. Breivik’s ability to avoid detection in the months and weeks leading up to the attacks has puzzled some. Though he spent months holed up on a farm he had rented north of Oslo, accumulating weapons and building his bomb, all while writing inflammatory anti-Muslim commentary on blogs, officials said he remained successfully under the radar.
A Norwegian security official with knowledge of the investigation said that Mr. Breivik had appeared on a list of buyers from a Polish chemical company the police were investigating, but that his activities appeared legal at the time.
“Normally these kind of people make an error,” said the official, who requested anonymity. “But he didn’t.”
The police are still trying to determine whether Mr. Breivik had any help in planning the attacks. He has stated that he is part of an organization called the Knights Templar, which he said had cells active in other countries, but investigators have challenged that claim.
“So far we don’t have any evidence of the cells, either in Norway or in Britain,” Janne Kristiansen, the head of Norway’s domestic intelligence service, told the BBC. Ms. Kristiansen also disputed an assessment made by Mr. Breivik’s lawyer on Tuesday that his client was likely insane.
“I would be surprised if this person was insane,” Ms. Kristiansen said. “I mean he’s calculating, he’s focused, he’s been going on with his plan for years, and this is not what I have learnt a person who is insane will do.”
This article, “Norway’s Premier Vows to Keep an Open Society,” originally appeared in The New York Times.
Elisa Mala contributed reporting from Honefoss, Norway, and Souad Mekhennet from London.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: July 27, 2011
An earlier version of this article misspelled the first name of man who admitted to the attacks in Oslo and Utoya. He is Anders Behring Breivik, not Andres Behring Breivik.