why Denmark would allow itself to become a conduit for espionage against its allies？What drove Danish spies to help the NSA.docx
why Denmark would allow itself to becom
e a conduit for espionage against its allies？
What drove Danish spies to help the NSA?
as a small country, it is dependent on security
guarantees from other states. Denmark has aligned
itself closely with the US – the world’s largest
military superpower – not just through NATO, but
also bilaterally. For Denmark, the cooperation with
the US and the NSA is crucial, both in terms of
technology and access to intelligence.
Denmark’s geographical location makes the
country attractive for the NSA, not least because it
hosts several key underwater cables for neighbouring
countries. These cables can be used to get
information about not only internet access, chats and
messaging services, but also text messages and
The FE is highly dependent on the NSA to combat
terrorism. Through the NSA, it gains access to
advanced technology such as the program Xkeyscore,
used to search through and filter the raw data from
the cables. It also seems that the FE had access to
information about planned terror attacks via the NSA.
Even though progress has been made on the
European side in regard to increasing cooperation on
security and defence matters, Nato and particularly
the US continue to be Denmark’s most important
Since the 1990s, but particularly since 9/11,
Danish foreign policy has been described as “super-
atlanticist” – prioritising building common values
and interests with the US. This “strong and
seemingly unwavering support for the American
world order” means Denmark is “willing to pursue
costly and risky policies to support the superpower”.
Additionally, Denmark remains to a large extent
outside European Union security and defence
cooperation because of its defence opt-out.
Negotiated after the Danish population rejected the
Maastricht Treaty in a referendum in 1992, the
defence opt-out prevents the country from
participating in those parts of the EU’s foreign and
security policy that affect defence and any military
cooperation at EU level.
This puts the relationship to the US (and Nato) at
the forefront of Danish security and defence decision-
making. Nor does the EU (yet) have the strength to
defend itself against Russia and China should the
need arise, which in part explains the draw of the US
A Danish expert in secret service operations
Thomas Wegener Friis believes that the FE was faced
with a choice about which global partners to work
more closely with.
"They made a clear decision to work with the
Americans and against their European partners," he
told NDR."It's not about friendships. It's not about
moral-ethical aspirations. It's about pursuing
interests," he told NDR.
How was the Danish government involved?
The Danish government knew of the involvement
of their country's secret service in the NSA scandal by
2015 at the latest.
They began to collect information on the FE's
cooperation with the NSA between 2012 and 2014 in
the secret Dunhammer report following the
disclosures by the former NSA employee and
whistleblower Edward Snowden, NDR reported.
The information they gathered made it clear that
the FE had helped the NSA to spy on leading
politicians in Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and
France, as well as Germany.
Danish intelligence also helped the US agency to
spy on the Danish foreign and finance ministries as
well as a Danish weapons manufacturer. The FE also
cooperated with the NSA on spying operations
against the US government itself.
Upon discovering exactly how far the cooperation
between the two countries' intelligence services went,
the Danish government forced the entire leadership
of the FE to step down in 2020.