The US intelligence agency, pinned by Edward Snowden several years ago, has spied in partnership with Danish intelligence parliamentarians and senior officials from Germany, France, Norway and Sweden.
The National Security Agency (NSA), the US intelligence agency, used Danish electronic surveillance systems to spy on several German, French, Norwegian and Swedish parliamentarians and senior officials between 2012 and 2014, including Chancellor Angela Merkel. This is what emerges from an investigation published by Danish public television DR on May 30, based on an internal report confirmed by several sources.
Indeed, according to DR, as part of an agreement with the Danish military intelligence services Forsvarets efterretningstjeneste (FE), the NSA was able to connect to telecommunications cables hosted in the Nordic country, where there are several radio stations. reception of submarine internet cables to and from Sweden, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
Politically, I consider it a scandal
Besides Angela Merkel, German figures such as former Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, now President of the Federal Republic, and former opposition leader Peer Steinbrück have been monitored through this. The NSA had access to text messages, phone calls and internet browsing of those concerned, including messaging services, according to DR. The names of French elected officials spied on could not be confirmed by the media.
The Danish TV revelations came from a May 2015 internal investigation by the Danish Defense Intelligence Service into the NSA’s role in the partnership, says DR, citing nine anonymous sources who had access to classified information from FE , and specifies that these revelations have been confirmed by several other sources.
Affected countries demand accountability
“It is ludicrous that friendly intelligence services actually intercept and spy on key officials from other countries. Politically, I consider it a scandal ”, reacted Peer Steinbrück for the German television channel Das Erste.
Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist, for his part, said on Swedish public television (Sveriges television, SVT) that he “demanded full information” on the case. And Norwegian Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen assured state broadcaster Norsk rikskringkasting (NRK) that he takes DR’s news seriously.
Quoted by AFP, Clément Beaune, French Secretary of State for European Affairs, for his part denounced an “extremely serious” affair, while calling for “checking” the facts.
“This is extremely serious, we must check whether our EU partners, the Danes, have made mistakes or mistakes in their cooperation with the American services | …]. And then on the American side, see if indeed there was […] listening, spying on political leaders, ”he declared on May 31 on France Info, not ruling out the idea of“ drawing the consequences in terms of cooperation ”with Washington.
On the side of the respondents, neither the NSA nor FE have yet commented on these revelations, but Danish Defense Minister Trine Bramsen, who was appointed in June 2019, was informed of this case in August 2020 , according to DR, to whom she affirmed that “systematic listening to close allies is unacceptable”.
An internal investigation following the Snowden revelations
In November 2020, DR had already reported that the United States had used Danish cables to spy on Danish and European defense industries from 2012 to 2015. The NSA had notably participated in the installation, on the island of Amager in south of Copenhagen, a storage center for the data extracted from these cables.
This partnership with the Danish services was based on the agreements made by the NSA with what it called “third party partners”: it provided surveillance technology to an allied country in exchange for shared access to the data collected. The American agency filtered content that interested it using keywords in the flow of intercepted communications. This system was revealed in 2013 by the whistleblower Edward Snowden, now a refugee in Russia. According to this former NSA analyst, the agency had five such partnerships.
The internal investigation of the Danish services that the media DR revealed had precisely been launched in 2014 following the revelations of Snowden, which had highlighted the existence, under the presidency of Barack Obama, of a system of world surveillance communications and the Internet by the NSA, targeting in particular the Germans and the Chancellor’s cell phone, in particular through the American Embassy in Berlin. In the process, former US President Obama had promised that the NSA would give up spying on US allies.
Reacting to these new revelations, the American whistleblower underlined the role played, according to him, by the current tenant of the White House Joe Biden, in these repeated scandals. Thus, the one who was vice-president of the United States at the time of the first revelations of Edward Snowden would have been according to him “deeply involved […] the first time”. “Biden is well prepared to respond to this when he visits Europe,” said Edward Snowden.
Biden is well-prepared to answer for this when he soon visits Europe since, of course, he was deeply involved in this scandal the first time around.
There should be an explicit requirement for full public disclosure not only from Denmark, but their senior partner as well. https://t.co/TJL7gr6dy8
– Edward Snowden (@Snowden) May 30, 2021
It remains to be seen how the European countries, generally so quick to denounce attempts at interference, will react to this scandal involving their ally from across the Atlantic.