Denmark’s cooperation with the US intelligence agency NSA goes back to the 1990s, newly-obtained documents have revealed.
Through a freedom of information request, Danmarks Radio obtained internal government documents dating from 1998-2000 that showed the Americans put “significant pressure” on Denmark to change its laws to allow the surveillance of communication lest it fall out of an inner circle of information-sharing countries.
The new documents corroborate information provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that revealed that the Danish Defence Intelligence Service (Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste) collaborated with the American NSA to tap undersea internet cables. They also reveal that the partnership goes back further than previously known.
“The papers confirm the picture of the cooperation existing and having existed for many years,” Hans Jørgen Bonnichsen, a former director of the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (Politiets Efterretningstjeneste), told DR.
The documents also reveal that FE received technical assistance from the US in breaking encryption and monitoring communications and that Denmark was threatened with being excluded from the US’s inner circle of allies if it didn’t change its encryption laws.
“The USA’s chief negotiator within the encryption area contacted the Danish defence ministry and stated that the Danish position needed to be changed in a more restrictive direction that puts a greater focus on security concerns by giving better possibilities for monitoring encrypted communications,” part of a document obtained from the defence ministry read. “Without accommodating [the Americans’ request], Denmark should not expect to remain ‘in good company’. That could result in a loss of specific benefits to Denmark in other security areas.”
Denmark caved in to the Americans’ request.
“It was no secret that we were in a category that meant we shared information on a higher level than countries that the US trusted less,” Jørgen Rosted, a former business ministry official, told DR. “What they threatened us with was that we would go down to a lower level where there was less sensitive information.”
Snowden documents released by the Guardian last year revealed that Denmark is one of the NSA’s ‘Nine Eyes’, an inner circle of countries that collaborate closely with the US intelligence agency.
The Nine Eyes group includes Denmark, Norway, France and the Netherlands in addition to the original ‘Five Eyes’ countries of the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand.