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Scary secret defense patents on the way to China – NRK Norway – An overview of news from across the country

Scary secret defense patents on the way to China – NRK Norway – An overview of news from across the country

The materials included documents, computers and other digital storage media containing defense secrets. Information for which strict rules have been set about how it is stored and handled.

Documents accessed by NRK show that the seizure followed what security authorities described as a “major security risk.”

The seizure took place at Oslo Patentkontor AS, the only consulting firm to have received security clearance to work with defense patents in Norway. The company has entirely Norwegian roots dating back to 1911. Until recently, the company was owned by the employees themselves.

But in the spring of 2022, the company entered the international patent pool Oh.

Then alarm bells went off at the National Security Service. The NSM is responsible for overseeing that secrets affecting national security remain classified.

– When we registered an ownership structure that shifted from national to international control, there was reason for concern, NSM Interim Director Lars Christian Aamodt tells NRK.

Lars Christian Aamodt has been appointed interim director of the NSM. It was the security authority's employees who investigated the new ownership structure with links to China.

Photo: Øyvind Byskil/NRK

It was part of the new ownership structure in particular that attracted attention:

– It is disturbing that the company appears to have an office in China.

Norwegian patent consultants now work for a group with subsidiaries in a number of countries. These companies also include companies in China and Hong Kong. This led to NSM deciding to conduct the inspection.

Patents, secrets and weapons technology

Patents protect inventions, so that only the person behind them has rights to the invention. But for some patents, completely separate and more stringent security rules apply.

Inventions that may be of importance to the defense of the kingdom are organized into a private law.

– This could apply to weapons technology, and if it goes awry it can in principle be used against us, says Aamodt, director of the NSM.

– Or they can understand how our systems work. These are typical defense secrets.

Document cover with the inscription SECRET on top of the sealed bag with contents from the seizure in Oslo Patentkontor AS

The seizures taken by NSM from the patent office in Oslo contained a number of different types of substances. Some of them are classified as classified.

Photo: Halger Onan/NRK

A table with the two documents, the computer and the bags sealed with graded materials from the patent office in Oslo

A table with the two documents, the computer and the bags sealed with graded materials from the patent office in Oslo.

Photo: Halger Onan/NRK

The computer bears a SECRET mark from a seizure taken by NSM at the patent office in Oslo

The computer bears a SECRET mark from a seizure taken by NSM at the patent office in Oslo.

Photo: Halger Onan/NRK

Bag stamped HEMMELIG with defense secrets extracted from the patent office in Oslo

The materials included, among other things, documents and digital storage media.

Photo: Halger Onan/NRK

NRK does not know exactly what secret patents the Oslo Patent Office has been working on, but there has been talk of patents related to defense secrets since the Defense of Important Inventions Act was introduced to the work.

Documents seen by NRK also show that the information handled by the consultants was of high quality, up to par Secret According to the security law.

It also appears that there has been talk of patents on behalf of other allied countries.

There is a Extensive cooperation within Defense industry between Norway and Germany.

New submarines and tanks for the Norwegian and German armed forces are among the projects in which the two countries are cooperating.

NRK understands that Norwegian patent consultants worked with confidential information from France and Germany.

After the seizure at the patent office in Oslo, a letter was sent to the German authorities with a warning not to share secrets with the Norwegian consulting company.

Defense Ministers Björn Arild Gramm and Boris Pistorius of Norway and Germany celebrate the start of production of new submarines

Norway intends to purchase new submarines from Germany. Here, Defense Ministers Björn Arild Gramm and Boris Pistorius of Norway and Germany are seen marking the start of production of new submarines.

Photo: Markus Brandt/EPA/NTP

I packed up the secrets and took them with me

– When we inspected, we saw that the security system was not intact, says Emodt at NSM.

Lars Christian Aamodt

Aamodt says NSM concluded that security was not good enough.

Photo: Øyvind Byskil/NRK

NSM conducted an unannounced inspection on August 7 last year at the headquarters of the Oslo Patent Office. Three employees of the security authority arranged a meeting. When they arrived at the building, they stated that they would also investigate the security situation.

After completing the inspection NSM stated that the security law had been violated on four points. The company denies to NRK that the security system was not sound (see longer response from the company below). But for the head of the NSM, the shortcomings of the security system were crucial for them to extract all the secrets:

-So we have to protect values. So we took the values ​​with us outside the company.

The NSM chose to withdraw the authorization that consultants had to be able to handle secrets.

Meanwhile, more than a year has passed since NSM learned of the change in ownership structure. In the spring of 2022, they became aware of the change. They only conducted inspections in August 2023.

-And then things could have happened that could pose a security threat?

– Yes, I have no reason to speculate, but there is a window in which there is some uncertainty, answers Lars Christian Aamodt on NRK.

Central to this was the new ownership structure. NSM also responded that they had not been formally notified of the changes in ownership. Although the Norwegian company Oslo Patentkontor AS (OPK) is still on the company registry, all employees have now been transferred to the AWA Group.

The work in Norway was also located at the group's Norwegian headquarters.

-What concerns you regarding the subsidiaries located in Hong Kong and Beijing?

– We know, based on threat assessments conducted by both the Intelligence Service and the Police Security Service, that other countries are interested in our secrets. “Then our concern is based, among other things, on the fact that we do not know how internal information flows in this system,” answers Interim Director Lars Christian Aamodt at NSM.

in PST threat assessments Among other things, it emerges that the agency believes that China is conducting active intelligence against Norway. They write that it is difficult to distinguish between government and private actors. This is because, according to Chinese law, companies and individuals may be asked to assist with intelligence.

According to NSM, the findings during the inspection created a security situation that did not meet the stringent requirements for protecting defense secrets:

NSM maintains that they are not aware that classified information has already been misdirected. In the decision to withdraw the company's security clearance, they are referring to general security breaches, not specifically to China or AWA's subsidiaries there.

The AWA believes secrets were protected all along

The head of the new company in Norway, AWA Norway, answers on behalf of both Oslo Patentkontor AS (OPK) and the current company structure.

Carsten Loos

Carsten Loos is the President of AWA in Norway.

Photo: Bo Matthiessen/AWA

– NSM's mission is to take care of safety, and both OPK and AWA respect their work, Carsten Loos who heads AWA Norway wrote in a written statement.

Norway Director at AWA Group expressed their understanding of the stringent security requirements to be able to work with defense secrets.

Meanwhile, the AWA did not agree with NSM's decision to withdraw the security clearance due to security conditions and changes in ownership.

The company believes that security conditions did not change, because it maintained the patent office in Oslo as a company, maintained security procedures, and maintained its patent cases classified there.

– To ensure that the security system remains intact, no changes were made to the physical environment, security facilities, access to classified materials, or security-certified personnel associated with the materials, AWA President Luce wrote in his statement.

Carsten Loos at AWA Norway reacts to NSM director's statements that one cannot be sure how information flows within the group, and concerns regarding subsidiaries in China.

– It is difficult to see how this material could be part of any information flow.

– The material was protected in a restricted area.

– Did OPK/AWA leak defense secrets to China?

– No, says Carsten Loos.

It is also stated that Oslo Patentkontor AS and AWA believe that the notification of the change of ownership was properly made.

Drammensveien 151, Oslo – large commercial building seen with a statue of two figures in shiny metal in the foreground

AWA's headquarters in Norway are located in this commercial building in Oslo.

Photo: Halger Onan/NRK

The AWA president stated that they did not complain about NSM's decision to separate Oslo Patentkontor AS from working on secret defense patents. This was because they had anyway planned to apply for a new security clearance for the Norwegian company AWA Norway.

– AWA has moved to new headquarters on 1 December 2023, and we are confident that, with the newly initiated application process, their supplier clearances will be approved in the same way as AWA's sister companies in Sweden and Denmark, Lous wrote in his statement to NRC.

-Is OPK/AWA Norway self-critical of anything in this process?

– Looking back, we see that it would have been possible to apply for a separate security clearance to AWA during the transition period in the building at that time, even if it was relatively short-lived. The lesson will be taken into account in future work when the AWA has now applied for its own approval at the new headquarters, writes Carsten Loos of AWA Norway.

China: – Unfounded suspicions

Chinese authorities respond to National Security Agency (NSM) signal and concerns.

– It is self-evident that the presence of offices in China cannot be the only basis for classifying a company as risky. The Chinese Embassy in Norway wrote in an emailed statement to NRK that such doubts are unfounded.

It was signed at the Chinese Embassy in Oslo

The Chinese Embassy is based in Oslo, and has responded to NRK in writing.

Photo: Morten Holm/NTB

China asks NSM and other Norwegian services to put aside bias and stop making generalizations.

– They should instead use their forces against real threats so that they can better serve the Norwegian people, writes the embassy.

Furthermore, the embassy highlights the need for cooperation and mutual trust in the year that marks 70 years of diplomatic relations between Norway and China.

– China will continue to adhere to an open stance to work with Norway to deal with common challenges for the benefit of both countries.

NRK also provided statements from NSM regarding concerns about the corporate structure and offices in China of the two subsidiaries in Beijing and Hong Kong.

The AWA Group responded that interviews with the two offices could not be conducted, but the Managing Director of the entire group has the following statement:

– AWA is a global brand, and the companies affiliated with the AWA brand work very hard while maintaining confidentiality and security in all their relationships with clients. Regarding classified patents specifically, AWA is an approved safety in both Denmark and Sweden, and OPK has been approved in Norway for many decades. Therefore, it is part of our daily business operations to live up to the safety requirements imposed by the authorities, says Managing Director Sidsil Hogg of AWA.

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