Macron, Merkel demand answers from US, Denmark on spying report

The French and German leaders say spying on allies is not acceptable after a Danish broadcaster alleged the US and Denmark eavesdropped on countries, including France, Germany and Norway.

French President Emmanuel Macron is seen on a video screen during a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as part of a virtual Plenary Session of the Franco-German Council of Ministers in Berlin [Michael Sohn/Pool/Reuters]

French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday they expected the US and Danish governments to present explanations over allegations Washington spied on European allies with Copenhagen’s aid.

“This is not acceptable amongst allies,” Macron told a news conference after a virtual Franco-German meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“I am attached to the bond of trust that unites Europeans and Americans,” Macron said, adding that “there is no room for suspicion between us.”

“That is why what we are waiting for complete clarity. We requested that our Danish and American partners provide all the information on these revelations and on these past facts. We are awaiting these answers,” he said.

Giving her position, Merkel said she “could only agree” with the comments of the French leader.

According to a report by the Danish public broadcaster Danmarks Radio (DR), an internal investigation by the Danish Defence Intelligence Service (FE), showed the US National Security Agency (NSA) used the FE to eavesdrop on Danish information cables to spy on senior officials in Sweden, Norway, France and Germany from 2012 to 2014.

In addition to Merkel, the NSA also spied on then-German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and former German opposition leader Peer Steinbruck, DR said.

The investigation found the NSA had access to extensive data streams that run through internet cables to and from Denmark and intercepted everything from text messages and telephone calls to internet traffic including searches, chats and messaging services.

DR said its report was based on interviews with nine unnamed sources, all of whom were said to have had access to classified information held by the FE.

Earlier on Monday, Swedish Defence Minister Peter Hulqvist said it was “unacceptable to eavesdrop on allies”, adding “we want the cards on the table”.

Danish lawmaker Karsten Hoenge of the left-leaning Socialist People’s Party, which is supporting Denmark’s Social Democratic government, said on Monday that he would quiz the Scandinavian country’s defence and justice ministers in parliament about the case.

“The government must explain how come Denmark has been acting as a willing tool for a US intelligence service, and what it will mean for cooperation with Denmark’s neighbouring countries,” he said.

Denmark, a close US ally, hosts several key landing stations for subsea internet cables to and from Sweden, Norway, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

‘Good starting point’

Merkel said at the summit that she was “reassured” by statements by the Danish government, especially Defence Minister Trine Bramsen, condemning such actions.

“Apart from establishing the facts, this is a good starting point to arrive at relations that are truly based in mutual trust,” she said.

Reports in 2013 that the NSA listened in on German government phones, including Merkel’s, prompted a diplomatic spat between Berlin and Washington that soured otherwise good relations with then-President Barack Obama’s administration.

Merkel at the time declared that “spying among friends” was unacceptable. Still, there were also reports that Germany’s own BND intelligence agency may have helped the US spy on European companies and officials.

Source: News Agencies