Snowden speaking via teleconference when he was awarded a Norwegian freedom of expression prize in September. Photo: Svein Ove Ekornesvåg / NTB scanpix
The revelation that the US landed a private aircraft in Copenhagen intended to capture Snowden in June 2013 was first reported last month by the Danish online media Denfri, but Danish officials initially denied the report.
On Friday however it was reported that Justice Minister Søren Pind told parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee that the Danish government did allow the Americans to use both Danish airspace and the airport knowing full well that the aircraft was intended to take a captured Snowden back to the US.
“The purpose of the plane’s presence at Copenhagen Airport was apparently to have the ability to transport Edward Snowden to the USA in case he was delivered from Russia or another country,” Pind said in a written statement.
As recently as Wednesday, Pind said that he “wasn’t aware of the purpose of the aircraft in question”.
Denfri first broke the news after obtaining heavily-redacted documents from the Justice Ministry to follow up on a 2014 report from The Register that revealed that a US government jet previously used on CIA rendition flights was sent to Europe with the goal of nabbing Snowden. That report stated that the flight landed and waited at Copenhagen Airport, something that was never confirmed by Danish authorities.
Documents Denfri obtained from the Justice Ministry confirmed that the US-owned Gulfstream aircraft was given permission to land in Copenhagen as Snowden was stranded at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport waiting for Russia to grant him asylum.
It had previously been reported that the US sought the help of Danish, Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish authorities in tracking down the NSA whistleblower.
“The FBI requests that your service immediately notify the necessary and applicable agencies of the below information in the event that Snowden should board a flight from Moscow to one of your respective countries for either transit purposes or as a final destination,” a sent that the FBI sent out of the US Embassy in Copenhagen read.
In November, Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen dismissed calls from Denmark’s left wing to offer the whistleblower asylum.
“I have a very hard time seeing what the reasoning would be for parliament to pass a special law taking the extraordinary step of offering an American citizen political amnesty in Denmark,” Rasmussen said.
“He is sought for a series of legal violations; that's what he is. And the US is a democratic constitutional state,” he added.
Snowden used the Denfri revelations to accuse the PM of “having a secret”:
Reacting to the disclosure, Snowden on Friday tweeted that it “seems to confirm Denmark intended to violate principle of non-refoulement as I sought asylum”.
According to the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, the principle of non-refoulement stipulates that “no one shall expel or return ('refouler') a refugee against his or her will, in any manner whatsoever, to a territory where he or she fears threats to life or freedom.”
Snowden, 32, has been living in exile in Russia since June 2013, after stealing electronic documents from the US National Security Agency that revealed its secret surveillance programmes.
The US government has charged him with espionage and theft of government property, crimes for which he could be imprisoned for 30 years if found guilty.
Snowden was recently tipped as a favourite to win this year's Nobel Peace Prize by Nobel watcher Kristian Berg Harpviken, the director of the Peace Research Institute of Oslo.