The United States spied on politicians in Europe, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, from 2012 to 2014 with the help of Danish intelligence services, Danish and European media reported Sunday (May 30), including The world. Danish public broadcaster Danmarks Radio (DR) reported that the US National Security Agency (NSA) tapped into Danish telecommunications cables to spy on prominent officials and senior officials in Germany, Sweden, Norway and France.
To achieve this, the NSA has benefited from a surveillance collaboration with the Danish military intelligence service FE. DR revealed this information after a joint investigation with Swedish channel SVT, Norwegian channel NRK, German channels NDR, WDR and the daily Suddeutsche Zeitung, as well as The world.
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Danish Defense Minister Trine Bramsen, who was appointed in June 2019, was briefed on the case in August 2020, according to DR. The Danish defense ministry, questioned by AFP, did not react but Trime Bransen told DR that “Systematic espionage by allies is unacceptable”. It is not established that Denmark knew that the United States was using its surveillance system to spy on its neighbors.
Code name “Operation Dunhammer”
Angela Merkel, then German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and then opposition leader Peer Steinbruck were among those the NSA spied on, according to DR. The NSA was able to access text messages, phone calls, and internet traffic, including searches, chats, and messaging services. The NSA spying was reported in an internal FE report codenamed “Operation Dunhammer” and presented to FE management in May 2015, according to DR.
Danish radio said its information was confirmed by nine sources who had access to classified information from FE, and said their disclosures were independently confirmed by several other sources. Neither FE nor then FE director Lars Findsen have commented on the revelations yet.
This spy case, if it is confirmed, occurred during and after the Snowden affair, in 2013. NSA employee turned whistleblower, Edward Snowden then revealed the existence of a surveillance system global communications and Internet campaign targeting Germans in particular and the Chancellor’s cell phone in particular. In November 2020, DR previously reported that the United States used Danish cables to spy on Danish and European defense industries from 2012 to 2015.