Greater control of spy agency on the cards

After nearly 14 years work, a report will be released today recommending tighter control of PET

A long awaited report on Denmark’s domestic intelligence agency, PET, due out today will recommend strengthening oversight of the organisation, sources say.

According to information obtained by Jyllands-Posten, the Wendler-Pedersen Committee (WPC) is expected to recommend that PET's activities become enshrined in law and for the current oversight authority, the Wamburg Committee, to be replaced by a stronger body with a permanent secretariat with expanded powers.

The WPC will also recommend that individuals who have been investigated by PET should be allowed access to their files.

The report’s findings will be sent to consultation until June after which a decision about the future of PET will be debated in parliament.

There is already a general consensus amongst Danish political parties to increase control, however.

“We have to have more openness and control of the intelligence services,” Radikale justice spokesperson Jeppe Mikkelsen said. “And we can’t ignore the Wamberg Committee. We either need to abolish it or we have to significantly strengthen it, for example, by having a permanent secretariat.”

In the past few weeks, Jyllands-Posten has focused on the issues facing PET and has revealed that there is much less transparency of the intelligence agencies in Denmark than in many other European countries.

PET is currently controlled by several oversight committees, which are comparatively weak, while scope of the agencies activities are not enshrined in law, but rather dictated in guidelines set out by the justice and defence ministries.

Government support party Enhedslisten is a strong proponent of increased control of PET and has even written a proposal for a law covering PET’s activities. Enhedslisten is proposing a special PET ombudsman that will be able to investigate cases against PET on its own initiative and force employees of PET to give explanations.

The PET ombudsman will also handle complaints from people who have had a security clearance turned down, as was the case with Socialdemokrat MP Henrik Sass Larsen, who was denied a seat in the cabinet as a result.

“With the expansive powers that PET has, it’s completely natural that they should be controlled just like any other authority,” Enhedslisten justice spokesperson Pernille Skipper said.

The demand for greater control was also echoed by the justice spokesperson for opposition party Venstre, Karsten Lauritzen.

The WPC was established in April 1998 and tis work has cost 1.2 million kroner.

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