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Former Danish defense minister prosecuted for leaking state secrets

This is the latest twist in a disastrous affair for the small world of Danish espionage. Friday January 14, the former Minister of Defense, the liberal Claus Hjort Frederiksen, in office from June 2016 to November 2019, confirmed that he had been indicted for having leaked state secrets. He faces up to twelve years in prison. “I spoke as a member of Parliament in a political file”, he defended himself in a press release, adding that he would not have « never imagined (…) harm Denmark or Danish interests”.

Although the facts with which he is charged have not been specified, no one in Denmark seems to doubt that they are linked to two interviews, given by Mr. Hjort Frederiksen, about the secret collaboration between the Danish foreign intelligence services (Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste, FE) and the United States intelligence agency (the National security agency, NSA).

In May 2021, Danish public television DR revealed that the NSA had spied on high-profile European figures, including former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in 2012 and 2014 using Danish wiretapping systems. telecommunications submarines, under an agreement with Denmark. To support his information, DR mentionedt “nine different sources having had direct access to classified information”, including an internal report, dubbed “Dunhammer,” written by four FE agents, dated May 2015, which detailed NSA practices.

Read the survey: Article reserved for our subscribers How European leaders, including Angela Merkel, were spied on by the NSA from Denmark

international scandal

On an international scale, the scandal had already been looming since August 2020. The intelligence services supervisory authority (Tilsynet med Efterrentingstjenesterne) then published a damning statement for the Danish DGSE, accused of having obstructed in an investigation, opened following the intervention of a whistleblower. The press release mentioned “operational activities in violation of Danish law”, consisting in particular of « obtaining and transmitting a significant amount of information on Danish nationals ».

In the process, the Ministry of Defense suspended, on August 24, 2020, four officials of the foreign intelligence services, including director Lars Findsen, for not having collaborated with the supervisory authority. – they were all cleared in December 2021 by a commission of inquiry appointed by the Ministry of Justice. Three weeks later, the newspaper Berlingske published a first article, revealing the cooperation between the NSA and FE, as well as the role of telecommunications cables in data collection.

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