Defense minister questions spying

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Norwegian Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen has taken contact with his Danish counterpart to find out more about alleged spying by the US on Denmark and some of its closest allies. The scope of the US’ alleged spying remains unclear, as does its targets.

Norwegian Defense Minister Frank Bakke-Jensen says he’s “taken the initiative” to discuss the US’ alleged spying on Denmark and allies including Norway with Danish Defense Minister Trine Bramsen. PHOTO: Forsvaret

Bakke-Jensen acted after opposition parties in the Norwegian Parliament demanded more information following a report on the spying by Danmarks Radio (DR) over the weekend. It claimed that Danish authorities had given the US’ National Security Agency (NSA) access to Internet cables that may have been misused.

Confidential documents revealed by a whistleblower in Denmark’s own intelligence agency have claimed that the US’ goal was to gain insight into the process behind Denmark’s decision in 2015 and 2016 to buy new fighter jets. The Danes, like the Norwegians, eventually opted for American F35 jets instead of fighter jets made by European producers. DR reported that the NSA didn’t only spy on Danish targets and interests but also on several in Germany, the Netherlands, France, Sweden and Norway.

Bakke-Jensen initially declined comment, telling newspaper Klassekampen that he couldn’t “while the case was under investigation (in Denmark). I can’t comment on cases based on anonymous sources either, or those involving issues in other countries.”

That didn’t satisfy the head of Norway’s defense and foreign relations committee in Parliament, Anniken Huitfeldt of the Labour Party. “We expect an orientation on this from the defense minister,” she told Klassekampen. Liv Signe Navarsete, an MP for the Center Party also expects more information from Bakke-Jensen.

“It would be an advantage to know the sources behind this (DR‘s report) but I think Parliament must be oriented regardless, about what the foreign ministry and the defense ministry have known or not known about this,” Navarsete said. She said it’s up to Bakke-Jensen to “find out when and how” he can inform Parliament, “but this isn’t something we can just let go.”

Another MP, Bjørnar Moxnes who leads the Reds party, agreed: “Parliament must make sure the government lays all the facts on the table and takes all necessary steps needed to find out what’s happened here.” He added that “American spying on Norway can have great consequences for our security policy.”

Experts note that it’s not unusual for allies to spy on one another, with commentator Harald Stanghelle writing in newspaper Aftenposten on Tuesday that he doubted the Norwegian government would make any formal protests. “It’s more surprising that (the alleged spying) has been made publicly known,” Stanghelle wrote.

Bakke-Jensen told news bureau NTB later on Tuesday that he has now “taken the initiative to have a conversation with (Danish) Defense Minister Trine Bramsen, and there’s been contact (between Norwegian and Danish officials) at the administrative level.” He added that he expects the claims of American spying will be examined in the Danes’ own investigation.

NewsInEnglish.no/Nina Berglund