Dane denied entry into the US for the wrong phone number

August 20th, 2013

This article is more than 11 years old.

Questions about how much personal information Denmark shares with US authorities after a man was likely barred from entering the US for having a phone number that once belonged to a terror suspect

A 24-year-old Danish man was recently denied entry to the US with his family. He has no criminal record, no known political activities and no known connection to terrorism, but what he did have was a phone number that once belonged to a man with known terrorist ties.

According to Politiken newspaper, despite the clean background of Tobias Linde Schanz, the Dane was denied entry to the US earlier this summer after completing his Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) application. The only thing Schanz can point to as a potential reason for the refusal was the fact that his phone number at the time, which he included in the online ESTA form, previously belonged to a foreign national who has been interviewed by the domestic intelligence agency PET due to his connections to Danish terror suspects.

Schanz's application was officially denied for "national security" reasons, but PET has refused to state whether it handed information over to the US authorities or whether the phone number was the reason for Schanz’s rejection. The US Embassy also refused to speak to Politiken about the case. 

But according to Flemming Splidsboel, an expert in intelligence agencies from the University of Copenhagen, it is likely the phone number sealed Schanz’s fate.

“There is no doubt that PET and the US authorities share information, and if the young man’s phone number formerly belonged to a man that PET was interested in, then that could definitely be the reason,” Splidsboel told Politiken.

Politiken's revelations led to a number of politicians deriding the decision to deny Schanz entry into the US. 

Far-left party Enhedslisten said the case demonstrates that the US authorities might be performing surveillance on Danish citizens.

“We need to find out if it is possible for them to electronically spy on Danish citizens and stop it if it is the case,” the party's legal spokesperson, Pernille Skipper, told Politiken. “If his suspicion for why he was denied entry into the US is correct, then it is a gruesome example of why the US shouldn’t be spying on Danish citizens.”

Far-right party Dansk Folkeparti called on PET to get push back against their American counterparts. 

"There is no justification in being put under suspicion because you were unlucky enough to inherit a potential terrorist's telephone number," DF's legal spokesperson, Peter Skaarup, told Politiken. "PET needs to straighten this out and ensure that the Americans understand it, so that we don't have this kind of mess in the future."

Socialdemokraterne's Trine Bramsen said it was "not fair" that Schanz missed out on a family vacation because of "guesswork", but said she saw no need for new legislation. 

"There are very strict rules for surveillance both in Denmark and the US," Bramsen told Politiken.

Venstre's Karsten Lauritzen also saw no reason for Danish politicians to get involved.

"It's an unfortunate situation [Schanz] is in, but it isn't a human right for a Dane to be able to travel to the US, nor for an American to travel to Denmark," Lauritzen said. 

As for Schanz, he said that he now has a new telephone number but said his ordeal has made him sceptical of digital surveillance.

"I fear the worst, which is that I have ended up on some sort of list even though I've gotten a new number," he told Politiken. "One cannot help but to be a little bit paranoid."


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