Denmark Helped Obama Administration Spy on Merkel’s Germany: Report

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 09: German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama hold a joint news conference in the East Room after meetings about the situation in Ukraine and other topics at the White House February 9, 2015 in Washington, DC. Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and …
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Denmark’s intelligence services are alleged to have worked with the Obama administration to spy on German leaders, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to a report shared with European news agencies.

The Danish Defence Intelligence Service (FE) reportedly granted access to the country’s internet cables to President Barack Obama’s National Security Agency (NSA). Through access into Denmark’s internet cables, the NSA was allegedly able to monitor text messages and phone calls from top German politicians.

The surveillance dragnet is said to have specifically targetted Chancellor Angela Merkel, then-Foreign Minister of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier, as well as then-opposition leader Peer Steinbruck, according to an investigation from the Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR).

The surveillance of Steinbrück is said to have come as he was put forward by the Social Democrats as their candidate for the German chancellorship.

In response to the report, Peer Steinbrück said: “Politically, I consider this a scandal.”

“I believe that Western democracies also need functional and able-bodied people intelligence services, because we are pretty well informed about Russian, Chinese, North Korean activities of intelligence services,” he said.

“In this respect, I do not necessarily have anything to object to Western countries activities of intelligence services, but that they turn against themselves, that is absurd,” Steinbrück added.

The report found that Denmark’s FE also worked with the NSA to target politicians and government officials in Norway, France, Sweden, and Germany.

German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported that the spying operation is believed to have been used to surveil members of the United States government, as well.

In a press conference given following virtual French-German meeting on Monday, French President Macron said of the report: “I am attached to the bond of trust that unites Europeans and Americans… there is no room for suspicion between us.

“That is why what we are waiting for complete clarity. 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.”

For her part, Chancellor Merkel said that she “could only agree” with the sentiments expressed by Mr Macron.

In 2014, a team of Danish intelligence operatives, under the codename “Operation Dunhammer”, were tasked with studying the collaboration between Denmark’s FE and the NSA to use Danish internet cables to spy on neighbouring nations.

Intelligence sources told DR that Denmark’s geographical position makes the country a hub for internet traffic from Europe and Russia. One source told the public broadcaster that the ability to spy through Denmark’s internet cables is so critical that it “has strategic significance for the relationship between Denmark and the USA”.

The scandal of the Obama administration allegedly spying on the German leadership was first brought to light following the release of the 2013 NSA leaks from American whistleblower Edward Snowden.

At the time, the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag alleged that President Obama had personally signed off on the wiretapping of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone calls.

In response to the Snowden leaks, Chancellor Merkel criticised President Obama, saying: “Spying among friends is not acceptable.”

President Obama would later admit: “There is no doubt that the Snowden revelations damaged impressions of Germans with respect to the U.S. government and our intelligence cooperation.”

The criminal investigation in Germany into the alleged spying operation was dropped in 2015, with German officials citing a lack of cooperation from the NSA in hindering the investigation.

Following the report that Denmark’s intelligence apparatus was aiding the NSA to spy on their European neighbours, Edward Snowden wrote on social media that President Joe Biden will be “well-prepared” to answer questions on the spying when visits Europe because “he was deeply involved in this scandal the first time around”.

Mr Snowden has been living in exile in Russia since 2013 after he was charged with several felonies under the U.S. Espionage Act of 1917 for leaking classified information about the global and domestic spying operations carried out by the NSA.

“There should be an explicit requirement for full public disclosure not only from Denmark, but their senior partner as well,” Snowden added in an apparent reference to the United States government.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka


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