Spying

France says allegations of US-Denmark spying 'extremely serious' if proven

The US was also accused of spying on Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2013.
The US was also accused of spying on Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2013. POOL/AFP/File

A report published by a public broadcaster in Denmark has alleged that the United States spied on top European politicians with the help of Danish intelligence. The French government has said the accusations are "extremely serious" and called for them to be verified.

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"It is extremely serious, we need to see if our partners in the EU, the Danes, have committed errors or faults in their cooperation with American services," Europe Minister Clement Beaune told France Info radio.

He added it would also be very serious if it turned out Washington had been spying on EU leaders.

"Between allies, there must be trust, a minimal cooperation, so these potential facts are serious," said the minister.

He said the facts must first "be verified" and then "conclusions drawn in terms of cooperation".

"This is not something that should be played down," Beaune said, while acknowledging that similar allegations had emerged back in 2013 that the United States had spied on Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"We are not in some kind of cuddly world so this kind of behaviour can unfortunately happen," he said.

On Sunday, Danish public broadcaster Danmarks Radio (DR), along with other European media, including Le Monde, reported that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had eavesdropped on Danish internet cables to spy on top politicians and high-ranking officials in Germany, Sweden, Norway and France.

The NSA had taken advantage of a surveillance collaboration with Denmark's military intelligence unit FE to do so, it said.

Denmark's defence ministry and the FE unit were yet to comment.

Defence Minister Trine Bramsen, who took over the defence portfolio in June 2019, was informed of the spying in August 2020, according to DR.

She told the broadcaster that "systematic eavesdropping of close allies is unacceptable."

DR said its information came from nine different sources who had access to classified FE information, and said their revelations were independently confirmed by several sources.

The alleged spying took place during and after the 2013 Edward Snowden affair, which erupted when the former NSA contractor revealed thousands of classified documents exposing the vast US surveillance put in place after the 9/11 attacks in 2001.

Among other things, the documents showed the US government was spying on its own citizens and carrying out widespread tapping worldwide, including of Chancellor Merkel's mobile phone.

In November 2020, DR reported that the US had used the Danish cables to spy on Danish and European defence industries from 2012 to 2015.

(with agencies)

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