Business lobby walks back US industrial espionage accusations

Dansk Industri says that Danish companies have been spied on by the NSA, but has no proof to back up the charges and is forced to retract its claims

Business leaders raised a red flag this morning that Denmark may have joined the growing list of European countries that have had companies targeted by the US's National Security Agency (NSA). According to Dansk Industri, the country’s largest business lobby group, revelations by former NSA intelligence employee Edward Snowden hint that the NSA has been snooping around Danish companies.

“[The NSA] looked at situations where American companies have had interest in the sales of businesses in Denmark,” Tom Togsverd, the head of DI Itek, DI’s telecom monitoring branch, told Politiken newspaper. Togsverd would not name the companies involved and said that they had no desire to come forward.

He said that although there was no proof that the NSA had targeted Denmark, “it would be naive” to believe that the US had not been monitoring Danish companies in light of the fact that the NSA has been looking at other European countries. The switch to industrial espionage is of grave concern to Togsverd.

“Information is being used in wholly unacceptable fashion,” he told Politiken.

But just hours after DI's claims were made, the lobby group sent out a press release walking back its accusations.

"I have no documentation that the American intelligence agency obtained information from Danish businesses and passed that information on to American firms," Togsverd wrote. 

READ MORE: Dane denied entry into the US for the wrong phone number

Justice minister says no
DI has advised its members for years to use encryption to tighten security, but Togsverd admitted that “no-one can guard against intelligence agencies that may have backdoors into even the most secure systems."

Morten Bødskov (S), the justice minister, said he had no reason to believe that the NSA had been spying on Danish businesses.

"I have no information giving me reason to believe that a US intelligence agency has unlawfully looked at Denmark or Danish interests,” Bødskov told Politiken.

Former CIA Director James Woolsey confirmed in an article in the Wall Street Journal in March that the US had engaged in industrial espionage against some of  its European allies.

READ MORE: Enhedslisten nominates whistleblower Snowden for Nobel Peace Prize

PET helping NSA
Although Togsverd said earlier today that there is as yet “no smoking gun”, he suggested that the domestic intelligence agency PET is supplying information to the US.

“I assume that if the NSA or another foreign intelligence service asks Danish authorities for information, they get it,” he said.

However, Togsverd took this claim back in his afternoon press release as well.

"I have no knowledge of, or wish to give the impression of, the Danish intelligence agency giving information that in any way was misused for commercial gain," he wrote.

Public broadcaster DR reported that it has tried repeatedly to contact Togsverd or the DI for clarification on their initial claims and subsequent retraction, but have received no comment. 

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