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Iran Press TV

Wiretapping scandal: Merkel, Macron want US, Denmark to explain spying on allies

Iran Press TV

Tuesday, 01 June 2021 6:58 AM

With the emergence of a controversial report that Washington had over the years spied on its allies in the European continent, with help from Danish intelligence service, two leading European powers, France and Germany, are now demanding explanations from the United States and Denmark over the scandal.

Danish public broadcaster DR reported on Sunday that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had eavesdropped on Danish underwater internet cables from 2012 to 2014 to spy on top politicians across Europe -- from France and Germany to Norway and Sweden.

Citing nine unidentified sources familiar with the investigation, the report revealed the NSA had taken advantage of a surveillance collaboration with Denmark's military intelligence unit FE for spying.

The spy agency got access to text messages, telephone calls and internet traffic including searches, chats and messaging services of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and other politicians, said the report.

It was not clear whether the Danish government authorized the taps.

In a video conference on Monday, Chancellor Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron said they expected explanations from both Washington and Copenhagen.

"This is not acceptable between allies, and even less between allies and European partners," said Macron.

"There is no room for suspicion," said Macron. "That is why what we are waiting for complete clarity," from both Denmark and the US.

"We are awaiting these answers," he added.

Merkel also echoed Macron's remarks, saying that she had been "reassured" by the Danish defense minister "for the transition to a trusting relationship."

"We discussed these things ... in relation to the NSA. Our approach to investigations has not changed since then, we rely on trusting relationships, and what was right then is true today," Merkel said.

Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said in a separate statement on Monday that the NSA and Danish military's surveillance activities were "a political scandal."

He said it was "grotesque that friendly intelligence services are indeed intercepting and spying on top representatives of other countries"

Danish Defense Minister Trine Bramsen's has neither confirmed nor denied the report, but said that "systematic eavesdropping of close allies is unacceptable."

Norway and Sweden have also demanded explanations from Copenhagen over the espionage report.

"It's unacceptable if countries which have close allied cooperation feel the need to spy on one another," said Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg.

She said Norway had asked Denmark "for all the information they have".

Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist also said he had been "in contact with Denmark's defense minister to ask if Danish platforms have been used to spy on Swedish politicians."

Denmark hosts several key landing stations for undersea internet cables to and from Sweden, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands and Britain.

Last year, several FE officials were suspended by an independent oversight board over allegations of serious wrongdoings stemming from the internal investigation, which began in 2015, according to DR.

US has a long history of spying on European leaders. American whistle-blower Edward Snowden revealed thousands of classified documents exposing the vast US surveillance.

The documents showed that Washington was spying on its own citizens and carrying out widespread tapping worldwide, including of Merkel's mobile phone, in 2013.

US President Joe Biden, who was vice-president at the time, "was deeply involved in this scandal the first time around," Snowden said in a tweet on Sunday.

Snowden, who is in Russia, said, "Biden is well-prepared to answer for this when he soon visits Europe."

"There should be an explicit requirement for full public disclosure not only from Denmark, but their senior partner as well," he said,

The former contractor has been charged in the US with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information.

He was granted asylum by Russia in 2013 and has been living in exile since then.

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