Denmark in US spy agreement?

A number of politicians want answers after Denmark was linked to an information-sharing agreement with the US by a British newspaper

The halls of Christiansborg are simmering after a British newspaper revealed that Denmark is among several countries that have shared sensitive information with the US intelligence agency NSA for decades.

The Guardian newspaper revealed that at least seven EU member states have shared personal information with the NSA, including Denmark, the UK, Spain, Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands.

Sensitive documents, seen by another English newspaper, The Observer, reportedly showed that the countries have had agreements in place since the Cold War that compel them to hand over data, which experts believe includes mobile phone and internet data.

A number of political parties in parliament are now calling for an explanation from the justice minister, Morten Bødskov (Socialdemokraterne), the defence minister, Nick Hækkerup (Socialdemokraterne), the domestic intelligence agency PET, and the defence intelligence services, FE.

“One thing is that the intelligence agencies exchange information with agencies in other countries; we were aware of that. But if it is true that the Danish agreement corresponds to the British one, then that means that the Americans have direct access to Danish communication,” Pernille Skipper, the justice spokesperson for Enhedslisten (EL), told Information newspaper.

In the past, EL has demanded a guarantee from the government that the NSA was not monitoring Danish citizens and authorities.

“Such surveillance is against the data laws. It is difficult for the Danish police to gain access to this information, so the American authorities have better access to monitor Danish citizens than the Danish authorities themselves have,” Skipper said.

The revelation come in the wake of the espionage scandal that has rocked the EU in the last few days and that has threatened to derail the ongoing free-trade negotiations between the EU and the US. Today’s news did not serve to abate those threats.

“It’s incredible that the US, which is considered our ally, has a need to behave like this. I can’t imagine that the Danish authorities do anything to provide access to the information, because if that is the case, heads will roll in the Defence Ministry,” Villum Christensen, the defence spokesperson for Liberal Alliance, told Information.

The information-sharing agreement between the US and the UK was developed back in 1955 and conveyed that "in accordance with these arrangements, each party will continue to make available to the other, continuously, and without request, all raw traffic, COMINT [communications intelligence] end-product and technical material acquired or produced, and all pertinent information concerning its activities, priorities and facilities."

The agreement explains how it can be extended to incorporate similar agreements with third party countries, such as Denmark, providing both the UK and the US agree.

Denmark, given the code name Dynamo in the third-party sharing agreement, held great strategic importance during the Cold War and historian Peer Henrik Hansen said he wouldn’t be surprised if such an agreement was in place, referring to an agreement between Denmark and the US from 1946.

“Denmark doesn’t just give away information. That would be giving away trade goods, which is what intelligence is. We have to be honest and say that the intelligence capabilities here in Denmark are limited,” Hansen told Information. “We can’t monitor our own citizens without a warrant, and if the Americans discover that there are six men in Nørrebro plotting terror, then such an agreement would allow the US to alert the Danes of that.”

Indeed, the US has claimed that the massive data collection programme carried out by the NSA played a major roll in thwarting the planned 2010 terrorist attack against Jyllands-Posten newspaper’s Copenhagen offices.  

The Justice Ministry has deferred all questions about the espionage to the Defence Ministry, which has not yet commented on a possible secret Danish-American espionage agreement.