This thesis analyses how the threat of terrorism is perceived and responded to in Norway. Based on an understanding of threats as socially constructed, its main theoretical pillar is the Copenhagen School’s theory of securitization, and a central objective is to apply this theory to the empirical case. The main research question is to what extent the issue of terrorism has been securitized in the Norwegian context, and the analysis centers on the discourse and practice of counterterrorism. A main assumption is that the international ‘war on terror’ has influenced threat perception and policy practices at the national level: As a country with miniscule experience with terrorism prior to the attacks of 22nd July 2011, Norway had nevertheless implemented new counterterrorism measures in parallel with a developing understanding of international terrorism as a security threat.
Securitization of terrorism in the national setting is measured in a two-step process. First, the language used and the assessments made of the terrorist threat is evaluated, showing how the threat image has evolved from near irrelevance to high priority as international, Islamist terrorism has emerged as the main concern. Second, acceptance and emergency measures are measured by investigating the evolution of national counterterrorism practices as a number of different policy tools, specifically the domestic policies aimed directly at arrest, penalization, or prevention of terrorism: Laws, policing, surveillance and military forces. While the Norwegian counterterrorism approach does not exhibit securitization to the extent of its British or American counterparts, it is argued here that the approach is becoming increasingly proactive to the extent that it gradually compromises with the liberal principles and high democratic acceptability that is associated with a clean-cut criminal justice model of counterterrorism.