US espionage activities are back in the limelight after European media reported that Danish intelligence services helped the United States spy on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other senior politicians in Europe .
(CN) – The U.S. National Security Agency spied on key European politicians, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, with the help of Danish intelligence services between 2012 and 2014, according to European reports.
Danish public broadcaster Danmarks Radio and other European news outlets, including Le Monde and Süddeutsche Zeitung, reported on Sunday that the Danish defense intelligence service, known as Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste (FE) in Danish, had gave the NSA access to underwater internet cables that allowed the US agency to spy on many politicians in neighboring countries. Denmark, a member of the European Union and NATO, is an essential hub for internet and communication connections in Europe and beyond.
The reports were based on a confidential internal investigation on which the Danish government is said to have sat for years. The reports shed further light on the secret NSA surveillance programs that US whistleblower Edward Snowden first denounced in 2013.
US President Joe Biden was the vice president when Snowden went public. As Biden tries to re-energize transatlantic relations, new revelations about Denmark’s willingness to let the American spy agency listen to its neighbors – apparently Germany, Sweden, Norway and France – undermine the unity of the EU and erode trust.
Biden is expected to make his first trip as president to Europe in less than two weeks for a G7 summit in southwest England. Some European politicians say it’s time for the US and the EU to sign a pact promising not to spy on each other.
On Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron and Merkel denounced Danish-American cooperation.
“I mean it’s unacceptable between allies. It’s clear, ”Macron said at a joint press conference with Merkel. He demanded “full transparency” from Copenhagen and Washington.
Merkel, speaking via link, agreed with Macron, but was gentle in her response and said Denmark was cooperating. The NSA spy campaign on Merkel was exposed by Snowden in 2013, though ties to Denmark are new. The German government said it was not aware of Denmark’s involvement until the information came out on Sunday evening.
The Danish government did not respond to the reports, although Trine Bramsen, the Danish Defense Minister, issued a statement saying that “systematic listening to close allies” was “clearly unacceptable”.
Radio Danmarks reported the NSA has pulled everything together from text messages to phone calls made by European politicians, but only the names of three top German politicians have appeared in the reports.
Besides Merkel, the NSA is said to have spied on Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a Social Democratic politician who served as Germany’s foreign minister between 2013 and 2017 before becoming president of Germany, and Peer Steinbrück, the candidate for chancellor. center-left social democrats in 2013 in Germany. federal elections.
Steinbrück called it “grotesque” and “absurd” that FE allows the NSA to spy on politicians from a country allied with the United States.
Data collected from internet lines was reportedly sent to a secret center run by FE in Sandagergard, near Copenhagen’s main airport.
Huge volumes of internet data were then analyzed by the NSA surveillance program known as “XKeyscore,” according to reports. Last year, the FE came under fire for illegally monitoring people in Denmark, a revelation that led to high-profile resignations from the agency.
The NSA has shared its XKeyscore technology with other intelligence agencies, including the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) and with the UK, according to files leaked by Snowden. Snowden said XKeyscore gives the NSA the ability to track almost anyone it wants on the internet.
Legally, this type of political espionage cannot violate international law.
“Political espionage is not prohibited by international law. This is the reality. It is not pleasant, it is not always decent – but that is no problem when you consider international law, ”Bart Groothuis, Member of the Dutch European Parliament, said in a statement. interview with Politico. Groothuis is working on a new European cybersecurity bill in the Brussels parliament.
Many European politicians have expressed their fury and outrage at the latest revelations.
Jens Holm, member of the Swedish parliament from the Swedish Left Party, called Denmark’s actions “extremely scandalous”.
“We need to know who was watched, when and how,” Holm said in a interview with SVT, a Swedish public broadcaster that was part of a media group that exposed the Danish-American watch program. “It is extremely scandalous.”
He said he wanted to know if his communications had been collected. As a human rights defender and member of the Swedish parliament since 2010, he feared that the US spy agency had obtained information about the people he had come into contact with. He said he was in contact with Palestinians involved in the conflict with Israel, political activists in Colombia who are endangered by paramilitary groups and people who harbor refugees.
Holm said the NSA may have been interested in following up on his communications because of his activism on behalf of Snowden, whom he nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Holm visited Snowden in Moscow in 2015.
Others, however, viewed spy disclosures as just part of what countries are doing.
“It’s a matter of interests, not friendships,” said Patrick Sensburg, parliamentary member of the center-right Christian Democratic Union of Merkel in Germany. Sensburg said it was common for countries, including European countries, to spy on each other.
Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.