The US National Security Agency (NSA), with assistance from Denmark’s foreign intelligence unit spied on senior officials of European countries, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, among others.
This was revealed in a report by Danish state broadcaster DR.
The findings are the result of an internal investigation in the Danish Defense Intelligence Service from 2015 into NSA’s role in the partnership, DR said, citing nine unnamed sources with access to the investigation.
This is unsurprising, as the fact that the US spies on its allies regularly has been known fact, for a while now.
The timeline in the investigation covers 2012-14, and then the NSA used Danish information cables to spy on senior officials in Sweden, Norway, France and Germany.
Asked for comment on the DR report, a spokesperson for the German chancellery said it only became aware of the allegations when asked about them by journalists, and declined to comment further.
Reuters requested a comment and unsurprisingly, the NSA did not immediately reply to a request for comment and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) declined to comment. A spokesperson for the Danish Defense Intelligence Service declined to comment.
“It is grotesque that friendly intelligence services are indeed intercepting and spying on top representatives of other countries,” German opposition leader Peer Steinbrück told German broadcaster ARD. “Politically I consider it a scandal.”
He accepted that western states require functioning intelligence services, the fact that Danish authorities had been spying on their partners showed “that they are rather doing things on their own.”
Sweden’s Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist told Swedish SVT broadcaster that he “demanded full information on these things.” Norway’s Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen told broadcaster NRK that “take the allegations seriously.”
Back in August 2020, Denmark suspended the head of the Defense Intelligence Service and three other officials from their posts following criticism and accusations of serious wrongdoings from an independent board overseeing the unit, centered around the 2015 investigation, according to DR.
Danish intelligence also helped the US agency to spy on the Danish foreign and finance ministries as well as a Danish weapons manufacturer. The FE also cooperated with the NSA on spying operations against the US government itself.
A Danish expert in secret service operations Thomas Wegener Friis 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.
Patrick Sensburg, who led the German parliamentary committee to investigate the NSA spying scandal, was not surprised by the news. Anybody surprised by the news would be the actual news.
“It’s not about friendships. It’s not about moral-ethical aspirations. It’s about pursuing interests,” he told NDR.