Danes helped NSA snoop on leaders, say reports that reignite 2013 scandal
Denmark’s secret service helped the US National Security Agency, or NSA, spy on many European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to an investigation by multiple European News outlets published on Sunday.
While US spying on European allies was first exposed in 2013 by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, journalists have only now gained access to reports detailing the support to the NSA by the Danish Defense Intelligence Service, or FE.
Politicians from Germany, Sweden, Norway, France and the Netherlands were all targets. Besides Merkel, current German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was a foreign minister years ago, was also a target.
The Danish public broadcaster Danmarks Radio, or DR, made the revelation following a probe it led with Swedish broadcaster SVT, Norway’s NRK, Germany’s NDR, WDR and Suddeutsche Zeitung, and France’s Le Monde.
The DR report shows that the NSA was able to access SMS messages, telephone calls, and internet traffic including searches, chats and messaging services. It said that the spying was detailed in a secret FE working group report codenamed Operation Dunhammer and presented to FE top management in May 2015.
The information came from nine sources who had access to classified FE information, and the findings were independently confirmed by several sources.
A DR report last November revealed that the US had used the Danish cables to spy on Danish and European defense industries from 2012 to 2015.
“Politically, I consider this a scandal,” Peer Steinbruck, then chancellor candidate for Germany’s center-left social party SPD who was also spied on, was quoted as saying by German broadcaster DW.
Neither Merkel nor Steinmeier has commented on the issue, but a German government spokesperson said that the chancellor had been informed of the revelations.
Range of targets
The DR said that the Danish intelligence agency also helped the NSA spy on the Danish foreign and finance ministries and a Danish weapons manufacturer. The FE also cooperated with the NSA on spying operations against the US government itself.
The Danish government knew of their secret service’s involvement in the NSA scandal by 2015 at the latest. It forced the entire FE leadership to step down last year after discovering such cooperation with the NSA.
Thomas Wegener Friis, a Danish expert in secret service operations, believes that the FE was faced with a choice about which global partners to work more closely with. “They made a clear decision to work with the Americans and against their European partners,” he told NDR.
Snowden, in a tweet on Sunday, said: “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 partners as well.”
US President Joe Biden will attend a G7 summit that starts on June 11 in the United Kingdom. He will also visit Brussels to attend a NATO summit on June 14. It will be his first European tour since taking office in January.
WikiLeaks also tweeted the latest News on Sunday, along with its earlier reports about the NSA’s spying activities.
Agencies contributed to this story.