After news broke that Danish intelligence had helped the U.S. National Security Agency spy on European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the U.S. and Danish authorities to come forward to clarify the situation. What is puzzling is that if this is true, why would the U.S. spy on European leaders when they are close friends on both sides of the Atlantic?
If the media revelations prove to be true, it would be another serious case of wiretapping after the tsunami caused by the Snowden revelations eight years ago. According to Danish state radio and several European media outlets Sunday night, Washington used the Danish submarine cable network to wiretap political figures in Germany, Sweden, Norway and France, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, at least until 2014.
On Monday, at the end of Merkel’s last Franco-German ministerial video link meeting before she bids farewell to power in the fall, French President Emmanuel Macron said, “If the above information is true, it is unacceptable to do such things between allies, and especially with EU partners.”
“I cherish the mutual trust that connects Americans and Europeans, and we should not be suspicious of each other,” Macron added. “That’s why we are waiting for a thorough clarification of this matter. We have asked our partners Denmark and the United States to clarify the relevant information disclosed by the media and the truth about what happened in the past. We await their answers.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel then said, “I no doubt fully agree with Macron’s statement.” Merkel added: “I am reassured that the Danish government, which includes the Danish defense minister, has informed me unambiguously of what they think. This is the minimum, not only to clarify the facts, but also to consolidate trust.”
The EU troika sent a clear signal to Washington asking for clarification, although the White House, the U.S. State Department and the U.S. National Security Agency refused to answer when asked about it by AFP.
According to Danish National Radio, the NSA obtained electronic correspondence, telephone conversations, cyber activities including web searches, as well as web chats and departmental communications of European heads of state. EU political figures tapped include Steinmeier, then German foreign minister and now German president.
How much did the Danish authorities really know? What role did it play? Could the Danish authorities have been unaware of the successful wiretapping of European leaders, which was carried out through a Danish intelligence operation called “XKeyscore”?
The basis for the Danish National Radio story was access to a secret report from the Danish Defense Intelligence Service, which was requested by the Danish Defense Intelligence Service after the Snowden affair, but at an ominous date, which seems to imply that the Copenhagen authorities were not necessarily aware of it? The report was finally submitted in May 2015.
AFP wanted more details from the Danish Defense Intelligence Service, but the agency declined to make any comment. In a brief statement, Danish Defense Minister Bramson said that “systematic espionage against close allies is unacceptable. Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg also said, “It is unacceptable if allies who work closely together also need to be wiretapped.” She added that Norway wanted more information from Denmark. “Denmark has set up a commission of inquiry, and we want this commission to provide us with more information.” Swedish authorities have also said they are asking the United States and Denmark to come forward with clarifications.
The revelation of this scandal has brought to mind the dismissal of Lars Fensen, head of the Danish Defense Intelligence Service, and three other intelligence officials in August 2020, who were removed by Defense Minister Ms. Bramson because Danish authorities were informed of Danish involvement in wiretapping EU officials at that moment, according to Danish state radio.
However, the exact reasons for their dismissal have never been made public by the Danish authorities. The Danish government accused them of “withholding important and crucial information” and “providing incorrect information” during the 2014-2020 period. The intelligence agency is also accused of obtaining information on Danish citizens without permission and “failing to follow up and thoroughly investigate espionage information.”
According to Thomas Wegener Friis, an intelligence expert at the University of Southern Denmark, this is a scandal of the same nature as the revelation a few years ago that the German intelligence agency helped the United States commit espionage.
As the only Nordic country to be a member of both NATO and the European Union, Denmark is one of the closest allies of the United States and the EU.
Snowden, who is currently living in Russia, tweeted after learning of the incident, calling on the authorities in Copenhagen and Washington to be “completely transparent” and clear up the scandal.