Ex-ministers launch attack on government for spy-scandal mishandling

Ex-PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and former foreign minister Uffe Ellemann-Jensen have unloaded a barrage of criticism on the government – but may have let slip their own state-secrets in the process

In December, Denmark was rocked by an historic scandal that saw the head of the Defense Intelligence Service (FE), Lars Findsen, jailed for leaking highly classified state information.

The exact charges – which Findsen called “insane” – were not made public, so whether he leaked information to the media or to foreign agents is unclear. At the time, it drove domestic and international news into a frenzy.

On February 17 he was released after 71 days behind bars. And then on Saturday, the case prompted another public spat between government officials.

Two veterans of the Venstre party – former PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen who headed NATO from 2009-14, and a former foreign minister, Uffe Ellemann-Jensen – issued a joint statement attacking the government for its handling of the FE scandal and for indicting their party comrade Claus Hjort Frederiksen for treason.

The statement
“The charge of treason is a huge burden for Frederiksen. He was just exercising his right as an MP to criticise the government’s handling of this matter,” they begin, before levelling their main argument: that the government mishandled the FE case in broad daylight.

“By virtue of our previous positions in Danish and international politics, we have an in-depth knowledge of the intelligence services in different countries. Protecting the confidentiality of intelligence operations is crucial – therefore, we are shaken by the Danish government’s handling of the FE case,” they contend.

“The case flared up thanks to the sensational press release from the Danish Intelligence Service (TET) on 24 August 2020. We were both very upset when we saw that it mentions a confidential intelligence co-operation, which we had been made aware of. The responsibility for this falls heavily on the PM. She gave the green light for both the overreaction in August 2020 and for the charge against Claus Hjort Frederiksen in December 2021.”

Suspicious claims: Exhibit A
In their critique, the two former ministers specifically point to a public press release from August 2020 that “mentions a confidential intelligence agreement that we [Ellemann-Jensen and Fogh] had been made aware of”.

But the press release only mentions “indications that FE may have leaked information on Danish citizens”. Nothing about a “confidential intelligence agreement”.

So, why would Ellemann-Jensen and Fogh, in the same breath as complaining that the government is splashing state secrets in public press releases, bring up a hitherto unmentioned state secret – and claim prior knowledge of it?

Suspicious claims: Exhibit B
The former defence minister, Claus Hjort Frederiksen, said that the agreement in question was entered into between PM Poul Nyrup Rasmussen and US President Bill Clinton.

Fogh Rasmussen replaced Nyrup as PM in 2001, so it’s reasonable to assume that he knew of the agreement.

But Uffe Ellemann-Jensen has not held any ministerial office since 1993, so it’s difficult to explain why he would have been ‘made aware of’ this agreement.

“Here we are in the situation that a former prime minister and a former foreign minister – in an attempt to defend an accused party comrade – confirm the existence of the agreement, and that they apparently additionally confirm that the secret of this agreement has been broken in the past,” said Information’s political reporter Bo Elkjær.

“Ellemann-Jensen and Fogh criticise the government and the Intelligence Service for dealing with this case ‘in full public’. But the only ones actually dealing with the matter in full public are these two outspoken, former Venstre ministers who are apparently queuing up to leak, confirm and blue-stamp their knowledge of this secret deal.”

It seems that while Ellemann-Jensen and Fogh accuse the government of airing its dirty laundry in public, they’ve accidentally aired some of their own.

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