As noted in the introduction, independently of the ACIA meeting, two senior Norwegian police officers who were intimately involved in investigating the terror attacks discussed the case at John Jay College on November 19 in a seminar program supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. One speaker was Police Superintendent Asbjørn Rachlew of the Oslo Police District, who created the investigative interviewing training program for the Norwegian police and was an adviser to the team that interviewed Breivik for many, many hours over a seven-month period after the attack. The second speaker, Chief Inspector Geir-Egil Løken of the Criminal Investigation Department, was one of the three interviewers.
In the John Jay seminar, Rachlew spoke about the evolution and underlying principles of Norwegian police interviewing methods and the strategy employed in questioning Breivik. Løken described the actual interview experience. Both generously agreed to have their presentations included in this report.
Opening the session, Rachlew told his audience that using the word “interview,” rather than “interrogate,” is deliberate and meaningful. Interrogation is intended to get a suspect to confess, by persuasion or manipulation. Investigative interviewing is explicitly not aimed at a confession. Its purpose, as practiced by Norwegian police, is “to gather reliable and accurate information in order to discover the truth about matters under investigation…. the objective is not to obtain a confession from someone already presumed in the eyes of the interviewing officer to be guilty.”*
*Until little more than a decade ago, Rachlew explained to his audience, Norwegian police — and he himself — took the traditional approach to interrogation, viewing it primarily as a technique for getting criminal suspects to admit their crimes. The philosophy and practice of police questioning changed largely as the result of a celebrated murder trial in the 1990s in which a 19-year-old defendant was convicted on the basis of what turned out to be a false confession. In the aftermath of that case, and after spending time at a British university researching investigative psychology, Rachlew designed a new training program called KREATIV, based on “a set of values, a set of core issues that we want our interview techniques to be recognized by…. K is for communication, R is for rule of law, E is for ethics and empathy, A is for active consciousness. T is for trust through openness — the police cannot have secret investigative interview techniques, we can’t have anything to hide from our people, so openness was a very important issue. I stands for information. We are gathering information, that’s our task, not seeking confessions. And V is for Vitenskapelig (scientific); it stands for ‘scientifically based methodology’ (in Norwegian, Vitenskapelig basert metode).”
Along with that concept of the interviewer’s craft, Rachlew came to the Breivik investigation with another conviction, also reflecting basic values: that Breivik’s violence could not be allowed to undermine the rule of law or Norway’s fundamental principles of justice and human rights.
Nobody can take away from us our values or our democracy. That was the first message from our government, that we would stand for the values that we have. I was on holiday and the chief of the Homicide Squad inOslocalled on my cell phone and asked if I could come in and advise on the interviews of Breivik. So, I was on the first bus intoOslo, like many other colleagues on that particular day. And I took with me the message from our government that nobody can take away our values.
We have our constitution; we have detailed rules for the police in interrogations and interviews and for the prosecution, we have the state attorneys’ guidelines. We have rulings from Supreme Court that over the years developed some boundaries of what we do. We have human rights and we have our training program. So, these are our values, for instance, that everyone charged with a criminal offence shall have the right to presumption of innocence until proven guilty according to the law.
Now in this situation the suspect was apprehended at Utøya with the weapons on him. There was no real question about whether or not he was involved in this. How can we respect the presumption of innocence? Some of you may have read the words of Herbert Packer:* “the presumption of innocence is a direction to officials about how they are to proceed, not a prediction of outcome.” It is not the opposite of the presumption of guilt. These are two separate ideas.
*Herbert L. Packer (1925-1972) was an eminent legal scholar who taught at the Stanford University School of Law.
Now this is very easy to say as a lecturer standing here, and this is the right thing to do, of course, but what about the implementation? It is important for the police to meet Breivik with humanity and respect and give him the opportunity to explain his version, like all suspects of crime. The police cannot take with them the attitude that may exist among the people now. The police should not judge or moralize. So, if we preserve our values, if we respect the values that we have agreed upon and apply them in our work, then we respect the presumption of innocence.
Initially the police did not respond to media inquiries about their questioning of Breivik, but as speculation increased and tabloid headlines proclaimed “how the police are going to break him,” Rachlew felt the public needed to be told how the investigation was conducted and about the principles it was based on.
I went on national television telling exactly what was the purpose and how we are interviewing Breivik. I said that the perpetrator is one of our key witnesses. If you are sitting in front of the man or woman that has committed the crime, he or she is indeed one of your key witnesses. Nobody knew this case better than Breivik himself. Nobody knew how he prepared, how he executed, why he did things, etcetera. He is the one that holds the most answers. And I said that that investigative interviewing is our most important tool as detectives. The objective is to collect as much accurate and reliable information as possible. This is the core in investigative interviewing as opposed to interrogation and confession-oriented techniques.
We were motivated to gather as much positive information as possible from three perspectives, the legal perspective, the victim perspective and what we will call the historic perspective.
First the legal perspective. One politician questioned why hundreds of detectives are working on the case for months when the suspect has confessed, we know everything. But this was not the situation that we were facing. From the very moment Breivik was arrested he said immediately to the arresting officer, “I am not alone. Cell 2 and Cell 3 will activate quite soon.” Ten minutes into this interview, he says, “you have to realize that what happened today is just firecrackers compared to what is going to happen. I am a member of a pan-European organization called the Knights Templar, cells 2 and 3 inNorwaywill activate.” At that point, we had to take him very seriously. We needed to find out, was he alone or was anybody with him? Does this Knight’s Templars exist? What about cells 2 and 3, do they exist? Where are they? Are they planning new attacks? So that was the legal perspective, why we needed as much information as absolutely possible to provide reliable answers to those questions.
Then we have the victim perspective., Metropolitan Police fromLondonwho investigated the 7/7 bombings inLondontold us, if we had a chance to investigate 7/7 once more, we would have even more focus on the victims, the ones left behind. And indeed when the trial started, we were very happy that we have that perspective because it was the ones left behind that have a lot of questions about what happened to their loved ones. And as I said, nobody knows that better than Breivik himself. He is our key witness.
Then we have what we call the historic perspective. If we have as a goal to try to prevent these things from happening all around the world, well, here we have a case where we have the person still alive. Quite often the people who do similar things to this are not alive to provide information about their lives, about how they think. So we thought, okay, if we can get this guy to talk and talk and talk and talk about himself, about his motivation, about his background, about his relationship with his father and everything, then perhaps some researcher can use that information in the future and try to see if it can help us to understand so we can prevent. So the historical perspective also motivated us to gather as much information as absolutely possible.
What was ourstrategy to achieve that goal? We would stimulate a “free account” by using open ended questions. We would probe and we would challenge, but we would not give him any information. We would not confront him what we knew before we felt that we have gathered all the information that we should gather. We conducted approximately one interview a week for seven months. Sometimes no interviews, sometimes two interviews, but approximately one every week. Our main strategy was to stimulate communication, that he would still be motivated to talk to us and we would listen to him, so that he would feel that we respect him, at least that we will take him seriously. And then when we had gathered the information that we think of, then we would start in the last three or four interviews to challenge him, to disclose information that we have that was not in line with what he had told us.
If we look at the underlying principles, Eric Shepherd* says that the basic interpersonal communication principles that apply in social interaction in everyday life also apply in police interviews. It’s not that complicated. If you treat the human being and respect the human being and actually listen to the human being, the chances are that he will talk to you. You increase the chance. It is the same principles that apply in all social interactions. Does it help to put diapers on the suspect and make him shit in his own diapers before the interview? Will that help? I do not think so. I do not believe that for one second. Actually I believe that is very counterproductive, when the aim is to establish communication and gather reliable information.
* A British psychologist who advises law enforcement and intelligence personnel about investigative interviewing.
Every second of the interviews of Breivik is video recorded. According to the principles that we laid down 10 years ago, all interviews with victims of serious crimes and key witnesses to serious crimes are video recorded. Everything is shown. Openness is a very important component when it comes to maintaining and developing trust in the society, trust by society in the police. And keep in mind that we learned this the hard way. When I was a homicide detective back in the 90s what we did was not public, the manipulation that we used, how we developed techniques, how to get the defense lawyer out of the interview room by prolonging the interview so that they did not have time to sit there. We had one goal in mind, that was to get the suspect to confess. If the police can be open, then we can tell everybody how we work, and we can also receive feedback. So, openness is very important.
Geir-Egil Løken then described the actual interview process:
We did exactly the same in the interviews with Breivik as we did in all other interviews…. if you just will remember one thing after this presentation, it is that we did the very same as we did in all other interviews.
There were three interviewers and a leader, who was sort of the filter between us and the rest of the world.* He was the contact point for the leader of the investigation, for the other groups in the investigation. He took care of all practical things. He was the contact with the SWAT teams that took care of security. He was the contact point for the defense lawyers. He booked the interview room, made sure there were enough drinks, something to eat. He took care of all the problems, all the negatives. So, there was nothing negative connected to us, the interviewers, because Breivik knew that “I have this problem with Knut,” not the interviewers, so the relationship with us could be positive all the way.
*The team leader was Knut Jensen. The other two members of the interview team, beside Løken, were Nina Holm Andersen and Kim Ordal.
We also had a writer, a homicide detective at the national crime investigation service, also trained in interviewing. Most of our interviews were six to ten hours. All were taped and then when the tape is finished, then he has to start writing. He also wrote during the interviews so that in breaks, we could review what has happened. Asbjørn was our advisor. Then we have the people above us that were actually running the investigation, the investigation leaders group, and the prosecution service, the police lawyers. They gave us the themes. They also helped us prioritizing the things to ask Breivik about. They were also our connection to the rest of the investigation process.
The whole investigation was divided into around 30 projects, each with a leader. That turned out to be very important because the leadership group was not able to control all sides of the investigation, it was too big. The project groups did their investigations, connected with the leader group, and then they decided okay, what questions do we need to ask Breivik, and that was then sent back to us. For instance, there was a bomb group. The interviewers did not have close knowledge about explosives. We need to contact the bomb group. They were with us when we planned the interviews. They were together with us when we reviewed the interview plan, they were present behind the glass window when we did the interview, and together with them we evaluated the interview, whether we got enough information.
The goal of the interviews when it came to the bomb was to decide if Breivik was actually able to build this bomb alone, or did he have help. That was very important to us. You heard Asbjørn describe what our purposes were. It was to establish was he alone or did he have help? The bomb was very important in that, and when they reviewed the interview afterwards we knew that, yes, Breivik was actually able to build this bomb alone. That was a very important find.
We work with themes and then we look for potential evidence within the themes, but before we can do that we have to identify the themes and prioritize the themes and this we did together with the leading group. In the beginning our main objective was security. Is it possible that someone else would strike? Is it possible that someone else would be killed? Our objective is, will we be able to stop someone else from doing something like this again?
So how did we do it?
This is how we regard the communication process. The first phase is planning and preparation. Then it is introduction and rapport, then it is the free account, then clarification and disclosure, then closure, and then of course the very important phase of evaluation.
I will start with planning and preparation. This stage is divided into three parts, physical, case, and mental preparations. In this stage we have to define the purpose of the interview, what do we want to achieve? And then we work with that and create an interview plan. The case-related preparations is where we as interviewers really, really have a big job every time. First of all, we have to find out what do we know, and as the case got bigger and bigger and bigger, the workload got bigger and bigger and bigger. And from knowing what we know, then we also know all right, what do we need to know more about?
Then we prepared the interview plan, an overview, plan tactics. Then we got together the whole interviewing group together with experts that knew something about the theme that we are going to address. There were also people from the analysis unit, and there were police lawyers present. Together we could sit between three and four hours discussing the interview plan. Then the interviewer has to take the plan back to his office and finish with suggested amendments from the others.
The mental preparations, those were very important. I was quite excited the first time I was going to interview Breivik. We have an expression, butterflies in the stomach — I know you say the same. A little bit of tingling. But I was confident about our principles, our method. I was confident in my preparation. I was confident that the others had prepared everything in the interview room, everything is ready. My focus will be to be an active listener, to see him as a person, to make him see me as a person, be attentive to what he is saying, be aware of how I ask questions, the way I respond to what he is saying. It’s quite hard at times but I have to work on being quiet, leave space for him to use. He is going to be the star of the interview, not me. The less I say the better it is.
Then I am ready to go into the interview room. That’s where the second phase appears, introduction and rapport.
It is like a meeting with any other person. Introduce yourself, say your name. We give information about what is going to happen. A lot of people are uneasy in meeting with police, they do not know what is going happen. Okay, we tell them. Make them relax a bit if possible. Our purpose is to meet the interviewee as a person. We have to show him that we are the right person to tell his story to. I am not just the police. I am a person, a person who is ready to hear his story. I have to show by my actions that I take him seriously and I take the case seriously. Because we are having an asymmetric conversation. I decide when, I decide where, and I decide what we are going to talk about and I also decide what the outcome of the conversation would be, because I am the one who is writing the report. So, what we have to do is try to even out the differences to make the conversation as good as possible.
When Nina of our team did the first interview after Breivik’s arrest, the police headquarters was under siege. Armed police were all over because the headquarters was regarded as a possible target for terrorists. There was enormous pressure because she knew that if communication with Breivik broke down, we would not be able to get information about the other cells, about what was going to happen. Maybe what she does in there could even make a dangerous situation where colleagues or other people get killed. She also knew that he had a very old-fashioned view of women. Women should stay at home, take care of children, cook food. But the first thing Breivik says to her is all right, so it’s you who get the honor to interview the biggest monster in Norwaysince Quisling. And she responded immediately no, I do not look at it this way, I am here to talk to you and get much information as possible, and he settled with that, that was fine. So even though all the pressure was on her and the whole world looking at what is going to happen in that interviewing room, she met him the same way that we always meet people in an interview With respect, with dignity, explaining what we are going to do, not focusing on him being the biggest monster, on what he had done, but she met him as a person.
We explain every time what is going to happen in this interview. Today, we are going to talk about this, and this, and this. We did that every day. But first we asked him how are you. And we really meant it. We wanted to know how he was, first of all because it is a nice way to start, to meet people and say how are you and actually want to hear it. But it also gives us an indication of how the interview is going to be. If he has had a bad day, okay, then we have to sort of build him up a little bit.
And then we have meta-communication, communication about communication. That was very important. How many of you have children? If you go into a toy store with your child, it is very important to give an idea about what is going to happen. You tell the kid okay, today you can have one thing. And you go in there and you pick out one thing, okay, and then you move on a little bit and the child says oh, I want this. You say, you already chose one thing, remember we talked about it before we went into the store, that you can have only one thing. Then usually the kid understands. Oh yeah, yeah, that’s right.
That is the very same thing that we do in interviews to prevent communication from breaking down. We tell people, you might face some difficult questions. That is how it is going to be because we have to understand what has happened. We might interrupt you sometimes. You might be going to face critical questions. It is not necessarily because we don’t believe you, but it is because we have other information that we need to test out and see how you think about that. So when somebody gets annoyed because we are nagging him, digging, digging, and digging, and we see that the communication is about to break down, then we say okay, remember what we talked about in the beginning. I told you we were going to ask some critical questions. It is not because we do not believe you, but we have some other information and we have to see if it is right or wrong. Oh yeah, okay. And then we are back on track. It sounds easy and it is easy, you just have to do it. Breivik understood his role and our role immediately. There were no problems. I think we only had to use metacommunication one or two times.
Empathy. How can we show empathy for this monster, knowing what he had done? A lot of people say, I could never have done this. I could never have interviewed Breivik, he is a bastard. But we are in a professional bubble. We are focused on getting information. If you are in that bubble, you have to think okay, what about this person. Disregard his actions, just look at the person, and then it is not hard to understand that being isolated in a cell is a hard. You can show empathy about that. By his actions, he put himself out of society, he lost his family, his friends. You can show empathy, but we were very conscious about not showing sympathy. That is something totally different.
So, we have started the interview. We have heard how he was doing. We always asked, have you remembered something else concerning the last interview, or are there are any things that you would like to address, we will do that first, and then he is happy to meet us. Then we move on to the free account. The optimal, the perfect interview, only contains one question. We know it is impossible to cover everything in one question but that ‘s the ideal, because then we are not influencing people by asking questions. Our goal is to make people tell the story without us influencing them. We use the term “white snow.” The memory is just like white snow, and everybody knows what happens if you take even one step in the snow. It makes a print, and that print stays. We regard questions as prints in the snow. We are in their memory and we are contaminating it. It is like a crime scene. What we are trying to do is make them tell the story first, that’s the free account, and by doing that we can find things that we did not know, or even more, we can also have them explain to us about things that we did not know that we did not know, and those are very, very interesting when they pop up.
When we talked about what happened at Utøya, I do not remember how long he spoke in the interview. But for the trial, I spoke with the prosecutor before she started questioning about this theme. I told her, in the interview he spoke without being asked any questions, so please try to do that. It is quite important. And she did it very well. In court he spoke for 1 hour and 40 minutes interrupted by just one question. I think that is how he understood he was supposed to explain himself. He even interrupted one of the prosecutors later in the trial, when he was asked a question and the prosecutor asked another question immediately afterwards. Breivik said please, can’t we do like we did in the interviews. Let me explain and you ask afterwards.
We decided to make an interview at Utøya because putting it into the physical context may trigger more information, always the purpose is to gather information. But before we did that we had to cover the theme in the interview room first. Our goal was to give the survivors and the ones left behind the answers to as many questions as possible. The interview in the interviewing room would be my first interview with Breivik. On the Tuesday, I think we interviewed him for 10 hours, on Wednesday for five hours, and then on Saturday we went to Utøya and we did a seven-hour interview there.
I remember that in the first interview in the interview room, when we finally got to the awful details, when he described in detail how he killed persons that he met, he explained that “I walked up behind them and pointed a gun at the first man, and my body was not able to pull the trigger because it is such an awful action, and this lady turned around and looked at me and she said ‘you cannot point the pistol at this guy,’ and then I had to start. I shot him in the head and I shot her in the head and I went over to them and put two bullets in their heads.” This is how he explained everything. One by one, all that he could remember, every episode. There was no emotion, no remorse, nothing. He just told about it like he was walking to the store and buying his milk and bread. And I also remember that after that day, when we were evaluating, I felt a bit upset with myself because I didn’t feel anything either after hearing all those awful details. But that is when the evaluation process comes in, which is very important. All the others in the group, they had the same feeling. None. No feelings. And to me that was very important because I felt very badly with myself because I didn’t feel anything, but when the others didn’t feel anything either that was very useful for me to hear. We think that it comes down to that first of all, he spoke with no emotions. Secondly, because we are professionals. We are doing our job. We are focusing on the professional part of it. Not the emotions but the information. Still, it was a little bit strange.
Then we moved on to Utøya. No question about it, it was the strangest day of my entire police career. I do not think I will have a stranger day ever. Going to the island. I did not know how I would respond. I did not know about how Breivik would respond being back at the scene. I had to prepare for horrible details, just focusing on, making open questions and check out his story. That was my perspective. My job was to create a for him and me to have a conversation.
A photograph of Løken and Breivik on Utøya shows the two men walking side by side, looking companionable and quite relaxed. Breivik is wearing a harness with a rope attached behind his waist. A security guard walking 10 or so feet behind him holds the other end. Between them, the rope is slack, trailing on the ground falling to the ground behind Breivik and trailing for perhaps 8 feet of its length. “The two of us were just talking,” Løken said.
To me and I think to him we were the only people there. That was challenging because just in the close protection unit there were five people. Altogether there were 10-15 people following us, listening to what we were saying. But we were able to create a space where it was just him and me. It was very intense and very strange.
At Utøya, I discovered that he was telling us about killings that did not take place when he said they did. He told me about at least three killings that happened inside the cave house in the middle of the island. That was wrong. The first one was when he came in to the first room and said, ‘well it’s obvious what happened here, it was one, two, three, four persons standing there, I shot them like this, one, two, three, four and then I finished them off like this. That’s obvious.’
I said okay, what is it that makes you think it is obvious? “Well you can see the blood stains on the floor here. So that is what must have happened.”
I said, “Don’t focus on what you think happened. Focus on what you actually remember.” And then he says, “Well actually I do not remember anything from this room.” And that was a very, very important finding for us because he was actually trying to be a good boy. He was trying to perform for us and he wanted to be the best one, to explain everything that happened, and that made it very important for us later to be very, very careful with him because he was actually a vulnerable witness. We could by asking questions actually pollute his memory and make him explain things that did not take place. That was a very important finding from that place. But he was very disappointed in himself because he did not remember the chronology. He did not remember which killing took place after which killing. I remember one break when he was really disappointed in himself and I actually had to say, “Okay, Breivik, we think that you have done very well. You have explained yourself very well.” Just to get him back into mode, to make him explain more, because our job is to get the information.
About halfway through the interviews we put a computer screen inside the interviewing room. We told Breivik what we were doing. With this screen we are communicating with the people in the back office. We might get questions or we might get that we have done with a theme. To us that was a great help because the people in the back, they had better knowledge about the themes than I did inside the interviewing room. They gave me feedback of how I was doing: You need to ask this question, now you are interrupting too much, now you have to ask more open questions. Or I could also get okay, you have talked enough, we have what we need from this theme, you can move on.
Clarification and disclosure. In this phase, we clarify the themes and make sure that we have understood everything correctly. We test our hypothesis and we test alternative explanations. We try not to reveal what we know but we still try to test our hypothesis by closing all the doors before we introduce potential evidence. When we start questioning in clarification and disclosure we first [WORD MISSING] on the theme and then we continue with the five WH questions, as we say: what, who, where, when, how, and why. (We do not like the word “why” because that is kind of accusative. Why did you do it? So we try to avoid using “why” and rather ask okay, what is the reason for you doing what you did?)
We worked on clarification for about seven months before we started to move in with the disclosure of the evidence, all the information that we have found throughout the investigation. We had to be conscious about when to challenge and when to listen. In the final interview, it became a little bit too much for Breivik and for the first time he showed some emotions in the interview. He got annoyed about the questioning. He thought that he was treated unfairly because we were presenting him with information that was contradictory to his own. There were a few little bit tense moments but then we went back to meta-communication and explained, Okay, Anders, remember what I told you in the beginning, we first gather information and then we have to ask you these questions, and finally he said, okay, I understand, I would have done the same myself. If we had not done that in the beginning, then the communication might have broken down completely. Yes, that was the last interview, but still it is important to remember that one or another time you might have to meet him again.
During the discussion following the presentations, Rachlew pointed out that one useful consequence of the exhaustive interview process is that it left almost no grounds for conspiracy myths or other counterfactual versions of the July 22 events:
We have so much information that it is very hard for people to come up with theories that there may have been two people on the island, that one got away, that he did not make the bomb himself, etcetera, etcetera. Time will show, but we have gathered so much information that there is very little room, we believe, for conspiracy theories in the future.
In answer to a question, Rachlew said Breivik had not been subjected to any deprivation techniques. To the contrary,
We would ask him, you tell us when you are hungry. You tell us when you are thirsty and we would provide that for him every time. His lawyers were always present in the interview room. Many interviews went very long, and he was empowered to end an interview whenever he felt tired. We would ask and he said, no, no, I want to continue. I feel fresh. I want to continue along too with you.
Løken added, “We supplied him with tobacco. We bought it for him.” Another questioner asked, “How long did it take before you became satisfied that there was not anybody else involved.?” Løken responded:
It did not take long before we started thinking, this cannot really be true, but we kept telling each other, okay, we might think it is not true, but we will still keep focused on it because we have to know it is not true. What we think is one thing, but what we know is different.
“But how long were you genuinely tense about this?” the questioner persisted. Rachlew responded:
Our leader, he always motivated us, that we do not know, we do not know, we do not know yet. There were colleagues of ours saying enough of this, it is bullshit, it is not true. But until somebody told us that enough is enough, we continued to investigate. I would say that the first six months we kept that possibility open. We wanted to be absolutely certain, or absolutely certain is probably the wrong word here because I do not think that we should ever actually be certain. We should keep on our toes a little bit. But for approximately six months or so, we kept that open.
After questioning Breivik for all those months, what did they conclude about his mental state. Was Breivik insane?
Løken: That is a question we have avoided answering because we are not professionals. And in this case, both teams of psychiatrists said there is no diagnosis that fits this man perfectly, they have a problem placing him in categories that they have named. Both teams said that. I can tell you that when we did interviews. We were discussing back and forth, back and forth. One day we say 49 percent crazy and 51 percent sane, and then the other day it is like 51-49. It comes down to defining the term sane or insane. Looking at his actions, there is no question that the man is crazy. But that is a layman’s term, crazy. It’s not the legal term, crazy or insane. That term I cannot answer, but if you ask me as a layman, of course his actions show that he is crazy.
Rachlew: The judge asked us the very same question. And we said that there are many good reasons in a democratic society why the police should not have an official opinion about this, that our laws increase the police power if we were to influence that decision. So it is very important that the police do not have an official opinion about that. But what we did tell the judge was that he thinks strategically. He is polite, etcetera, etcetera. We could tell the judge how we experienced him and then they would make their own decision based on information from us and of course the psychiatrists and everyone else.
Breivik was very aware of what he had done. In the first interview he said to us that what your bosses want now from me is some kind of information that could make the Norwegian people say that it’s over. It is not in my interest to give you that now because fear is what drives terrorism. This is why we do it.
Løken: And also he was very aware of how he was received by the first psychiatrist and how he wanted to be received by the second. He actually said straight out, okay, I see that they regard me this way then I have to change, so that I will not end up in a cuckoo’s nest. And he said that straight out. That he can think those thoughts does not exclude the idea that he might have some wrong perceptions that could actually be madness. So I am glad that it was not my job to decide.
The question of Breivik’s sanity and issues of criminal responsibility of the mentally ill were also discussed at ACIA’s meeting the previous month. Psychoanalyst Gerard Fromm contributed some details about Breivik’s life:
His parents divorced when he was 1. Kids in that situation so often feel that they are living signs of a huge mistake and nobody wants to see them. By the time he is 4, the mental health people in his school think he should be taken out of the home since it is so bad for him and he looks disturbed with a very peculiar smile. His parents go on to remarry. At some point Breivik says he is furious with his parents, especially for the super liberal matriarchal upbringing he got, which was completely lacking in discipline and contributed toward “feminizingme.”
In high school, he is not sadistic. He protects kids who are bullied. But he does something else: he starts writing graffiti all over the place. He is always skirmishing with the police. He takes steroids. He has cosmetic surgery. He is in a sense trying to become a man. He tries a business operation and it fails completely and he has to move back to his mother’s home. That is when people observe him falling apart and that is when he starts to plan for the attacks. So, in a sense you could view this as a kind of identity crisis waiting to explode.
Kjetil Stormark offered additional details:
When Breivik was 3 his mother was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic. Her mother — Breivik’s grandmother — also had major psychiatric challenges that caused his mother to leave the family home at an early age and become pregnant in her teens with the father of Breivik. There is a lot of stuff that has not been published yet about the childhood of Breivik, especially about the behavior of the mother.
Parliamentarian Laila Gustavsen described wrestling with the questions of when an insane person can still be held responsible for a terrible crime, and whether society’s goal for criminals is to punish or cure:
Being insane is not the same as being criminally insane. You have to really sick to be criminally insane. I think that is a very important discussion: how shall society treat the most ill people?
I have visited Ila Prison, which is one of the places where the most dangerous people inNorwayare kept after sentencing. When you go down to the catacombs, the tunnel system in Ila, you hear the screams and you see where the crazy people, the insane people actually are. They are in their cells 23 hours a day. They are taken up to the fresh air and walked around for an hour, and then back to their cells, and they are really, really not getting better. If you have a criminal policy that starts with the idea that everybody should be able to recover — I do not know if everybody can, but this should be the beginning — the main goal in putting a person into prison is not punishment, but for him to be able to recover, I think this is the perspective you have to put this discussion in.
Personally, because I am affected as a parent of a victim, I have had to rethink this. I still believe that a mentally insane person should have nothing to do with prison. He should be taken care of. But our legal system is not perfect, because when a mentally insane person still in a way has known his act, he knows he has done this, but he cannot be punished. He is still guilty and I think that is probably the missing link in our legislation.