Thursday, July 25, 2013

Norwegian heavy metal musician arrested for "pre-crime"

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Wall Street Journal, July 17, 2013

PARIS—French police Tuesday arrested Norwegian heavy metal musician and far-right extremist Kristian "Varg" Vikernes on suspicion he was preparing a mass killing, police said.

Police officers raised a red flag after Mr. Vikernes's wife legally bought four rifles, said Agnes Thibault-Lecuivre, a spokeswoman for the Paris prosecutor's office, whose antiterror division is examining the case.

French police had Mr. Vikernes under surveillance and had identified him as the author of aggressive racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic comments on Internet forums, said Ms. Thibault-Lecuivre. Mr. Vikernes has been living in France since 2010. "He is held on suspicion of preparing acts of terrorism," she said.

Mr. Vikernes's lawyer in Norway John Christian Elden said he was aware that Mr. Vikernes had been apprehended. He said Mr. Vikernes "has expressed extreme views on race mixing for several years, built on Norse teachings."

Mr. Vikernes's French wife, Marie, was also arrested.

French Interior Minister Manuel Valls told reporters the police acted in a preventive way. "The couple undisputedly constituted a danger, now we must wait for the results of the investigation."
French authorities feared that the 40-year-old Mr. Vikernes might have been preparing a killing spree similar to the one carried out in Norway by right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik in July 2011, a French police officer said.

Police searched Mr. Vikernes's home and found five guns, including the four rifles bought by his wife, and many boxes of ammunition, the police officer said. Mr. Vikernes is likely to be transferred to Paris later Tuesday from the town Brive-la-Gaillarde in central France where he was held after being arrested in a nearby village.

French police can hold suspects in terrorism cases for up to 96 hours before bringing preliminary charges. Mr. Vikernes and his wife haven't been charged.

A father of three, Mr. Vikernes was sentenced to 21 years in prison in Norway in 1994, the maximum penalty at the time, for stabbing his bandmate Øystein "Euronymous" Aarseth to death a year earlier, and for setting several churches on fire. Mr. Vikernes was 21 years old at the time of the sentencing. He was released early from prison, as per usual Norwegian procedure.

Mr. Vikernes was one of many individuals to receive a 1,500-page manuscript from Mr. Breivik in July 2011, though he has railed against him, claiming that the mass killer, knowingly or not, worked for "the Jews."

The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it didn't have any information about Mr. Vikernes's arrest. The Norwegian Police Security Service declined to comment.



For more on Mr. Vikernes' "pre-Christian" ideology, see this article from the International Business Times. Excerpt:

Vikernes has dubbed his extreme right-wing views “odalism,” which he describes as fiercely anti-modern, heavily based on pre-Christian pagan values, and openly racist. Vikernes’ ideology is largely based on pre-Christian Nordic and Germanic beliefs of honor and the fatherland, and he sees himself as constantly on the offensive against any beliefs deemed a threat to a pre-industrial European pagan society, including but not limited to Christianity, Islam, Judaism, capitalism and materialism. Several of Vikernes’ writings hint at the possibility of violent conflict with these forces, leading to his terrorism arrest.

For more on pre-crime and the false positive problem in massive data screening programs, see this article from The Atlantic. Excerpt:

The U.S. Department of Homeland security is working on a project called FAST, the Future Attribute Screening Technology, which is some crazy straight-out-of-sci-fi pre-crime detection and prevention software which may come to an airport security screening checkpoint near you someday soon. Yet again the threat of terrorism is being used to justify the introduction of super-creepy invasions of privacy, and lead us one step closer to a turn-key totalitarian state. This may sound alarmist, but in cases like this a little alarm is warranted. FAST will remotely monitor physiological and behavioral cues, like elevated heart rate, eye movement, body temperature, facial patterns, and body language, and analyze these cues algorithmically for statistical aberrance in an attempt to identify people with nefarious intentions. There are several major flaws with a program like this, any one of which should be enough to condemn attempts of this kind to the dustbin. Lets look at them in turn.
First, predictive software of this kind is undermined by a simple statistical problem known as the false-positive paradox. Any system designed to spot terrorists before they commit an act of terrorism is, necessarily, looking for a needle in a haystack. As the adage would suggest, it turns out that this is an incredibly difficult thing to do. Here is why: let's assume for a moment that 1 in 1,000,000 people is a terrorist about to commit a crime. Terrorists are actually probably much much more rare, or we would have a whole lot more acts of terrorism, given the daily throughput of the global transportation system. Now lets imagine the FAST algorithm correctly classifies 99.99 percent of observations -- an incredibly high rate of accuracy for any big data-based predictive model. Even with this unbelievable level of accuracy, the system would still falsely accuse 99 people of being terrorists for every one terrorist it finds. Given that none of these people would have actually committed a terrorist act yet distinguishing the innocent false positives from the guilty might be a non-trivial, and invasive task.

 

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