The NSA Allegedly Used Denmark’s Internet Cables to Spy on European Politicians

The NSA Allegedly Used Denmark’s Internet Cables to Spy on European Politicians


Illustration for article titled The NSA Reportedly Used Denmark's Internet Cables to Spy on European Politicians

Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images (Getty Images)

French and German political leaders are “seeking full clarity” after a recent report has alleged that the U.S. colluded with Denmark several years ago to spy on European government officials—even going so far as to read bureaucrats’ emails and text messages.

A recent investigation from Denmark’s independent public service broadcaster (DR) shows that Denmark’s top intelligence agency offered assistance to the U.S. National Security Agency as it attempted to surveil politicians connected to the European Union—including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. According to DR, the spying was part of a coordinated effort in which the Danish Defence Intelligence Service (abbreviated “FE”) gave the NSA access to Danish internet cables, which allowed it to intercept web traffic flowing through a number of European nations. In this way, the NSA could eavesdrop on “Norwegian, Swedish, German and French top politicians and officials,” the report claims.

It’s unclear how long the spying campaign lasted. The claims are based on an internal report commissioned by FE codenamed Operation Dunhammer that covered activities by the agency between 2012 and 2014. The “Dunhammer” report was completed in 2015, but has only now been made available to the public through DR’s reporting.

The findings essentially expand on disclosures made by Edward Snowden in 2013, when the former NSA-contractor’s leaks showed that the U.S had engaged in widespread and ongoing spying targeted at its political allies. At the time, the infamous breach showed that the NSA had monitored the phone calls of 35 different world leaders for some unknown period of time. Germany’s Merkel was singled out in the press as having been one such leader.

“This is not acceptable between allies, and even less between allies and European partners,” French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday during a recent Franco German video summit. “We requested that our Danish and American partners provide all the information on these revelations and on these past facts. We are awaiting these answers.” Similarly, Merkel said she agreed with Macron’s “assertion that wiretapping between allies was unacceptable,” CNN reports.

Other targets of the alleged surveillance included “former German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and former German opposition leader Peer Steinbrück,” reports Reuters. According to the outlet, Steinbrück responded to the recent report by telling a German broadcaster that he thought it was “grotesque that friendly intelligence services are indeed intercepting and spying on top representatives” of other countries.

The U.S.’s response has basically been to shrug and throw up its hands. According to the Washington Post, numerous current and former U.S. officials have responded to the allegations by quipping that such spying “should not come as a surprise, because allies routinely spy on each other.” It’s a justification that has been made numerous times before.

While the ubiquity of political spying among “friendly” nations is a historical fact, few countries have been caught doing it as much or as aggressively as America. Case in point, previous reporting has suggested that Merkel was actually under U.S. surveillance for several decades—which would mean that a majority of her political career played out under the watchful eye of the American surveillance state. With friends like these…



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