US spied on Scandinavian countries, Defence Industries, report says

Sputnik news agency and radio 05:05 GMT 16.11.2020

 

Ministries and defence companies such as Terma and Saab were targets of US espionage, according to a whistleblower report.

 

The US intelligence service NSA has used a top secret Danish-American espionage collaboration to purposefully spy on key ministries and private companies in Denmark and other Scandinavian countries, Danish Radio reported citing a strictly confidential report made by an internal whistleblower within the Defence Intelligence Service (FE).

 

Among other things, the report warned the FE's leadership about possible illegalities in intelligence collaboration to drain Danish internet cables of information. The report also uncovered espionage attempts against Denmark's Finance and Foreign ministries, as well as the country's closest neighbours and allies, Norway and Sweden.

 

The NSA gained access to fibre optic cables and a data centre on the island of Amager south of Copenhagen. From there, Dutch, Norwegian, French, and German data traffic, and Danish political institutions were monitored.

 

A source also mentioned that the NSA wanted to "nose out [Aarhus-based defence company] Terma prior to Denmark's purchase of new fighter jets", when Denmark decided on the multibillion purchase of new fighter jets to replace its ageing fleet of F-16s. In the fighter jet tender, Swedish defence company Saab was one of the contenders. After a heated debate with many controversies, the Danish government eventually settled on 27 US F-35 fighter jets.

 

After several failed attempts to draw the management's attention to the problem, the whistleblower alerted FE's supervisory authority, TET. According to TET, the FE's management "failed to follow up or further investigate indications of espionage". Danish Defence Minister Trine Bramsen later sacked five people in the FE leadership.

 

Giving the NSA access to information cables or otherwise making it possible to spy on key Danish institutions and the defence industry is clearly contrary to the country's interests, experts underscored.

 

"It is basically shocking, because the authority that was supposed to protect Denmark helped undermine the security of Denmark's vital interests", Jens Elo Rytter, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Copenhagen, told Danish Radio.

 

"According to Danish law, a foreign intelligence service mustn't of course spy on Denmark in the way that gains insight into military information or politically sensitive information", Jørn Vestergaard, a professor emeritus in Criminal Law at the University of Copenhagen, said.

 

The revelation made news among Denmark's neighbours as well.

 

"I wouldn't be surprised if the US spied on Norwegian targets, as we know they have done so against allied countries' heads of government before", Norwegian MP Freddy André Øvstegård of the Socialist Left Party said. "Still, it is very serious if true, especially since it seems to have happened in collaboration with the Danes and targeted the most expensive public procurement in Norway – the new fighter jets", he added.

 

According to Danish Radio, the NSA utilised the Amager data centre with its XKeyscore system, revealed in 2013 by Edward Snowden, and which is a central function in the NSA's entire interception apparatus. The programme makes it possible to go through large amounts of data in fibre cables with the help of “selectors”, keywords such as names of people in a central position in interesting organisations.