Danish former defence minister accused of leaking secrets

A former Danish defence minister faces charges of leaking state secrets, the justice ministry said Thursday, in a case linked to a scandal sparked by the Danish intelligence services' cooperation with Washington.

Former Danish defence minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen
Former Danish defence minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen after speaking to press at the Christiansborg parliament on May 12th 2022. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

In a statement, the justice ministry said it had “received a recommendation from the public prosecutor to prosecute MP Claus Hjort Frederiksen for… unauthorised disclosure of highly confidential information.”

The ministry is seeking to have his parliamentary immunity lifted, as required by Danish law.

Many of the details of the case, which has seen the former head of Danish military intelligence held for two months, remain classified.

Danish lawmakers are seeking access to the case file to decide whether to lift Frederiksen’s immunity, but the justice minister has so far refused.  

“We are talking about highly confidential information, so it is not possible for the entire parliament to see it,” Mattias Tesfaye told public broadcaster DR.

In May 2021, a media investigation revealed the US National Security Agency had used Denmark’s undersea cable network to listen to targets from four countries — Germany, Sweden, Norway and France — including then German chancellor Angela Merkel.

Frederiksen, defence minister between 2016 and 2019, told Danish television TV2 in December the agreement on the use of undersea cables was signed in the late 1990s by then US president Bill Clinton and then Danish prime minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen.

“That’s what I understood. That’s how it is. From what I know,” the former defence minister said.

Prosecutions were launched against him in January.

READ ALSO: Europe demands answers after US-Danish spying claims

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Former head of Danish intelligence charged over leaks

Danish prosecutors on Friday charged the country's former military intelligence chief with leaking state secrets, following a scandal over Denmark's cooperation with US intelligence.

Former head of Danish intelligence charged over leaks
The prosecution authority said Lars Findsen was accused of “having divulged secrets important to national security on several occasions and… under particularly aggravated circumstances”.
The details of the investigation are classified, but the case comes after Danish media reported that the Danish intelligence services had cooperated with the US National Security Agency (NSA).

Findsen, who was suspended in August 2020 without public explanation, was subsequently held in custody from December 2021 to February 2022. He insists he is innocent.

“I never divulged any state secrets. I reject the allegations”, he told Danish news agency Ritzau in June, criticising the handling of the case as “ridiculous”.

Prosecutors accuse Findsen of leaking state secrets and other confidential information after his suspension to six people, including two journalists, over a period of up to 17 months.

The leaks could “harm relations with other intelligence service partners and make their work more difficult if their work methods were revealed”, prosecutor Jakob Berger Nielsen said.
“Trust in the (Danish) intelligence service’s ability to protect sensitive information may have been weakened,” he added.
The prosecution said it would request a trial behind closed doors. A date has yet to be set.
While Denmark never publicly revealed why Findsen and the other agents were suspended, there have been suspicions that his service conducted illegal surveillance.
The government accused them of hiding “crucial information” and providing “false information to the authorities” between 2014 and 2020.
In May 2021, an investigation by several Danish media revealed that the NSA used Danish underwater cables to spy on officials in France, Germany, Norway and Sweden until at least 2014.
Former German chancellor Angela Merkel was among the NSA’s targets.
The revelations sparked an international scandal and the four countries demanded explanations from Washington and Copenhagen.