Denmark let the United States spy on political executives of Germany, France, Norway or Sweden between 2012 and 2014. The head of the Danish intelligence agency was dismissed in 2020 for failing to investigate indications of espionage.
The National Security Agency of the United States tapped Danish cables to monitor the communication of several political and administration officials in Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Norway and France, the Danish media DR revealed.
It all started with an internal report of the Danish Defence Intelligence Service following the revelations leaked by Edward Snowden in 2013 saying the United States massively spied on almost everyone, even its closest allies. The Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste, the Danish Defence Intelligence Service, therefore wanted to know if the U.S. spied on Denmark as well through their joint operations. The NSA and the FE intercepted communications metadata of Danish submarine internet and phone cables which are then copied in a database in Sandagergård, a military facility near Copenhagen. Denmark is actually a hub of the Internet traffic from Europe and Russia and a strategic point of information. The system is one of the most sophisticated of Danish intelligence.
But Denmark isn’t the only country to work with the NSA as several national intelligence agencies use American software or infrastructure to get information on their opponents. Such commercial relations are not illegal in Denmark but they become questionable when it's used to target its own allies.
And the internal study has reportedly revealed the NSA used the Danish spying system between 2012 and 2014 to monitor phone calls, chat and text messages in several European countries, selecting targets with their phone numbers. Between 2014 and 2015 a hand of analysts and hackers studied the keywords NSA used to track the communications.
Failures on indications of espionage
Then, in 2018, a whistleblower at the FE alerted the Tilsynet med Efterretningstjenesterne, the auditing body of the intelligence agency, about the situation. Last year, the TET released a statement asserting the “FE management has failed to follow up on or further investigate indications of espionage within the area of the Ministry of Defence”, without giving further details on the countries impacted. The two men who led the military intelligence agency along with another person were relieved of their duty. It was also suspected it gave out details of Danish citizens, but not about other European Union members. The investigation from DR therefore gives further explanations about the situation.
Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, who was reportedly monitored by the NSA, asked for clarifications from the U.S. and Denmark.
It is however not the only news related to espionage with European countries in the course of 3 days.
Almost concomitantly, the Dutch media NRC revealed that the Netherlands expelled three Sudanese suspected of espionage between 2012 and 2019. These diplomats were hired by the Sudanese General Intelligence Service and intimidated Sudan refugees members of the opposition party.
In the meantime, the lawyer of a French citizen arrested in May 2020 in Iran announced he is going to be judged for espionage and propaganda against the system. He took pictures with a drone in forbidden areas and asked on social media why the veil was mandatory in Iran but optional in some other Muslim countries.
Media sources and useful links:
- Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste lod USA spionere mod Angela Merkel, franske, norske og svenske toppolitikere gennem danske internetkabler, DR, May 2021, Free access
- Pressmeddelelse, Tilsynet med Efterretningstjenesterne, August 2020, Free access
- Nederland verzocht Soedanese diplomaten te vertrekken om spionage, NRC, June 2021, Free access