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US foreign policy

US spied on Merkel, European allies with Danish help from 2012 to 2014

Published: Updated:

The US spied on top politicians in Europe, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, from 2012 to 2014 with the help of Danish intelligence, Danish and European media reported on Sunday.

Danish public broadcaster Danmarks Radio (DR) said 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 defense ministry has not responded to AFP’s requests for a comment.

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Defense Minister Trine Bramsen, who took over the defense 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 revealed the information following an investigation it led together with Swedish broadcaster SVT, Norway’s NRK, Germany’s NDR, WDR and Suddeutsche Zeitung, and France’s Le Monde.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, then-foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and then-opposition leader Peer Steinbruck were among those the NSA had spied on, DR said.

The NSA was able to access SMS text messages, telephone calls, and internet traffic including searches, chats and messaging services, DR said.

The spying was detailed in a secret, internal FE working group report codenamed “Operation Dunhammer” and presented to FE top management in May 2015, DR said.

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.

Neither FE nor FE’s director at the time Lars Findsen have yet to comment on the revelations.

The US spying, if confirmed, was going on during and after the 2013 Snowden affair, which erupted when former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the US government was spying on its own citizens and its allies.

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