After massive criticism, the government has decided to drop a proposed counter-terror measure that would give the Danish Defence Intelligence Service (Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste - FE) the authority to spy on Danes abroad without a court order.
Defence Minister Nicolai Wammen said Wednesday that the government would change its proposal so that FE is required to obtain judicial approval for eavesdropping on Danes abroad.
“Since the government presented the proposal, I have listened to advice from many different sides and I think there is much to be said for a model in which we can closely follow these foreign fighters when they leave the country, but to do it in a way that FE in every single case receives a court order from a judge,” Wammen told Politiken.
The plan to give FE wide-reaching powers was one of 12 anti-terror measures the Danish government announced in the wake of the February 14-15 shootings that left two dead.
Under the original plan, the Danish military spooks would have been given even broader powers than agents with the US intelligence agency NSA or the British intelligence organization GCHQ. Both the American and British agencies need prior legal approval before conducting surveillance abroad – an element not included in the original Danish proposal.
Just weeks ago, Wammen defended the proposal by saying that “serious threats require strong responses”.
He said Wednesday that after a “constructive and fruitful debate”, the government has decided to listen to the criticism and require that an independent judge rule on FE's request to monitor Danes outside of the country.
“It is my impression that such a solution will be able to gather the widest support possible and that is important in a situation like this,” he told Politiken.
The head of think-tank Justitia, a primary critic of the proposal, welcomed the government's shift.
“This is an important improvement in regards to the rule of law that is in line with the recommendations we presented as part of our original criticism. This shows that it is important in a democratic society to insist on keeping heads cool even after a terror attack and to ask questions about how far one is willing to go,” the head of Justitia, Jacob Mchangama, told Politiken.