Outposts of the U.S. Surveillance Empire: Denmark and Beyond

Data acquired by the NSA has been used to convince the Danish government to buy fighter jets from Lockheed-Martin.

By Ron Ridenour - 10. December 2020

Denmark’s military allows the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on the nation’s Finance Ministry, Foreign Ministry, private weapons company Terma,[1] the entire Danish population, and Denmark’s closest neighbors: Sweden, Norway, France, Germany and the Netherlands (NL).

Information that the NSA acquired, with the aid of Denmark’s Defense Intelligence Service (FE) under the command of the Defense Department, was used to convince the government to buy Lockheed-Martin’s Joint Strike Fighter F-35 capable of carrying nuclear weapons, albeit Denmark forbids the possession of nuclear weapons on its territory.[2]

Such favoritism for both the U.S. government and the country’s private weapons industry knocked out European competition from the Eurofighter GmbH Typhoon and Sweden’s Saab Gripen-fighter. Boeing’s Superhornet was also a competitor.

In 2016, the government decided to buy 27 F-35s to replace F-16s. The price today is around $10 billion, which is double the country’s annual defense budget. After years of technical problems, the first F-35 for Denmark is just about to reach the assembly line in Fort Worth, Texas.

A Danish F-16 painted in the same colors as the upcoming F-35 flying over the capital, Copenhagen. [Source: thedrive.com]

The Danish government ignored its own national audit agency, which had “identified serious shortcomings in the decision-making process and calculations used as the basis for selecting the aircraft.”

FE is comparable to the U.S.’s CIA. It is unknown if FE has informed its own government leaders of all its spying for NSA/CIA and for private concerns.  No member of the government, parliament, military, or the civilian-led Danish Intelligence Oversight Committee (TET) will comment.

DR, Denmark’s public-service broadcaster and online medium, recently reported these developments based on revelations that one or more intelligence whistleblower(s) provided.

No major English-language media have covered this most serious revelation of extensive spying in Denmark’s history, at least not that I could find in two hours of searching.

The U.S. Cyber Command, National Security Agency and Central Security Service. [Source: wiy.com.br]

Danish Journalists Could Be Imprisoned in U.S. for Whistleblower Revelations

Ironically, Denmark’s media, both DR and newspapers, have not covered the extradition trial of the Australian Julian Assange in England. The U.S. government had long denied that Assange is a publisher but changed course mid-trial. It now contends that he is a publisher, and thereby asserted that any journalist anywhere in the world can be prosecuted in the U.S. for reporting “national security secrets.”

DR foreign news editor Niels Kvale answered my complaint of suppression of this important news, writing that DR’s decision of what to cover is based on “importance is the most important criterion.

Extraditing a journalist-publisher to the United States, which could imprison Assange for 175 years for 17 alleged violations of its Espionage Act, is apparently not important enough. By not covering this not “important” trial, DR may not realize that its reporters and editors can be prosecuted for violating the 1917 Espionage Act for revealing NSA-FE “national security secrets.”

Julian Assange’s trial has not been covered in the Danish press. [Source: theguardian.com]

In 1961, the U.S. Congress removed language that restricted the act’s application to U.S. territory and its inhabitants. Now U.S. law applies to every human being in the world, including journalists.

If NSA-CIA get angry enough, they could order whatever president is in office to demand that Denmark extradite “bad guy” journalists for letting the public know of its war crimes. We can be certain that, whichever political party is in office in Denmark, it will obey orders while saluting. 

Motives for revealing war crimes are not allowed as a defense in U.S. courts. That is a warning to all humans that the U.S. does not abide by basic democratic rights of free press and free speech.

I spoke on the telephone with DR editor Kvale about this U.S. government threat. He replied: “I was not aware of that. This sounds interesting. Send me your article and I will inform our journalists.”

The British magistrate, Vanessa Baraitser, will make her decision on extraditing Assange on January 4, 2021. Whatever her decision, it will be appealed by one or the other party while Assange rots in isolation, in Belmarsh high security prison for 20 months.

Last month, Manoel Santos killed himself in a cell in Assange’s wing. He had lived in England for 20 years, but the Home Office served him with a deportation notice to Brazil, and imprisoned him at Belmarsh. Assange knew him and is devastated, according to his partner Stella Moris, who is the mother of two of Julian’s children. Many doctors, and the UN Rapporteur on Torture, Nils Melzer, judge that Assange is being psychologically tortured, and that suicide is a possibility.  

NSA-FE New Deal

NSA and FE signed an agreement in 2008 that enables NSA to tap huge amounts of data sourced from Danish fiber-optic communication cables passing through Denmark. This metadata is stored by the Danish Defense Intelligence Service in a center built with NSA guidance and technical assistance on the small Danish island of Sandagergaard to which the NSA has access.

Sandagergaard is one of three Danish military-intelligence “listening posts” which trawls through and analyzes global internet data, seeking information, for example, on what Terma, Denmark’s largest weapons firm, has. This is clearly an intrusion on capitalism’s basic principle and need for free-market competition.

Military buildings at Kastellet in Copenhagen. [Source: thelocal.dk]

A military whistleblower first reported on illegal espionage to the military leadership in 2015. His reports to superiors were ignored. Four years later, he revealed illegal spying to the Danish Intelligence Oversight Committee. This undermanned five-person civilian oversight committee has only eight employees and a pauper’s budget of $1.3 million. It has no power to interrogate or even to see secret documents the FE wishes to hide.

The Defense Intelligence Service’s budget is $160 million (2020). How the funds are used is secret, and no oversight committee, parliamentary or civilian, knows how the money is used nor can they determine its usage.  

NSA with FE “are deep inside and digging into some Danish industrial secrets, which is usually what we accuse the Chinese of doing all the time [Huawei, for example],” Tobias Liebetrau, intelligence researcher for the Center for Military Studies at the University of Copenhagen, told DR.

Another DR report the same day headlined: “Headache for Denmark: USA Used Danish Access to Spy Against Our Neighbors.” Sub-head: “It is a real losing cause to set foot against Denmark’s most important partner in the intelligence world, experts assess.”

Those two juxtaposing headlines show, perhaps unwittingly, a deep dilemma for Danes. Do they want sovereignty or rather to be lackeys for Big Daddy? Without having taken a poll, my guess is that nine out of ten would choose the latter. 

There is no doubt, say Danish experts in intelligence and military services, that Denmark’s military (and thereby the government) is spying on its own people, its friendly neighbors, providing information asked of it by the U.S. government-military-intelligence services, and doing favors for U.S. private war industry. This includes spending billions in Danish taxes to buy war weaponry, in my words, with the intent of murdering people the U.S. wants it to murder.  

Nevertheless, Liebetrau dismissed these crimes as being decisive: “Because you can hardly gain anything by going public about it. You can only lose. You can lose in relation to your European allies, and you can lose in relation to the very big player with whom you have an incredibly great interest in having a strong relationship.”

Secret Revelations Background

In my August 27 dispatch in CovertAction Magazine, I reported what TET revealed to the media. It listed six major critical areas of concern.

  • Withholding “key and crucial information to government authorities” and the oversight committee between 2014 and today;
  • Illegal activities even before 2014;
  • Telling “lies” to policy makers;
  • Illegal surveillance on Danish citizens, including a member of the oversight committee. [At that point, it was not known that the “foreign intelligence service” mentioned was the U.S.’s NSA, but it could not have been any other];
  • Unauthorized activities have been shelved; and
  • The FE failed to follow up on indications of espionage within areas of the Ministry of Defense.
War Minister Trine Bramsen. [Source: facebook.com]

The Defense Minister, Trine Barmsen, temporarily suspended three, then four, then five FE leaders, including its current director, Lars Findsen, and its previous director, Thomas Ahrenkiel. They received full salary ($20-25,000 per month) while on leave. She refused to be interviewed, but stated that an investigation would take place before she could decide on their future.

Bramsen met with extreme criticism by the previous war minister, the neoliberal party’s Claus Hjort Frederiksen. He accused her of “opening the biggest threat to our security.” All the major parties joined in and called for her to be fired. They said she should have forbidden the civilian committee from releasing any information to the media. The public should not know what occurs behind Defense Intelligence Service’s barricades.

Bramsen reinstated the five suspended suspects, albeit in different posts, because of opposition by the “blue block”—as those opposing social democrats and its small support parties in the “red block” are called—and even before the investigative committee had begun its work.

This will be the first time that FE is actually under investigation. A new format is being constructed under the Ministry of Justice. Bramsen said it will be able to see secret documents and make recommendations, but not for public disclosure. We cannot know how deep the anonymous investigators will be able to dig or whether crimes have been committed.

Following these developments, and with the civilian oversight committee maintaining silence, the whistleblower decided to reveal more evidence, this time directly to DR. Reporters wrote that they knew the code name for the new advanced spy system but chose not to reveal it. They wrote that NSA personnel traveled to the new facilities regularly to “help FE build the necessary hardware and install the needed software.”

On September 24, DR published articles (and broadcasted) exposed more illegal activity. ”FE may have violated one of the clear rules that apply to the Danish military and foreign intelligence service: FE is only set in the world to protect Denmark from external threats and to safeguard Danish interests abroad. FE may therefore only come into possession of Danish information by chance.”

Fiber optic cables suck up and copy metadata, sms, chat, telephone calls, emails. The cables fetch data over Danish internet traffic, tapping into Russian communication, as well as German and other European countries’ internet world. Whatever this new equipment is, it probably is similar to or more advanced than XKEYSCORE, which Denmark also possesses.

Sources of XKEYSCORE data. [Source: the intercept.com]

[Source: the intercept.com]

Bill Binney [Source: computerweekly.com]

XKEYSCORE was, in 2013, NSA’s most advanced electronic surveillance program, which Edward Snowden exposed. Another NSA whistleblower, William Binney, had designed a program prior to XKEYSCORE, which could be used for extensive surveillance. He opposed using it to spy on entire populations, and resigned in 2001 after 30 years’ service. When XKEYSCORE was designed, it had greater capabilities than ECHELON[3] in that it could access all users’ emails, all computer communications, and even spy on us when our televisions have cameras.

At the time of Snowden’s exposé, he told The Guardian newspaper, “Any analyst at any time can target anyone… I, sitting at my desk, had the authority to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge to even the president if I had a personal email.”

Snowden’s disclosures helped reveal that NSA was continuously spying on France and Germany’s state leaders and many more in dozens of countries. NSA gets so close that private mobile telephones of state leaders, United Nation leaders, and any and all political party members are heard.

Denmark is a special helping hand in aiding the U.S. in its global spying with the purpose of dominating the world; that is what “globalization” is all about.

Edward Snowden [Source: time.com]

When Snowden’s revelations were in the news, Denmark’s first woman prime minister was another Social Democrat, Helle Thorning-Schmidt. Some members of parliament were asking if NSA was also spying on Denmark. She waved it off: “Pour a little cold water in the blood.”

Most countries have their own signals intelligence agency (SIGINT), which focuses on intelligence gathering for national security interests. Some SIGINT also conduct counterintelligence and law enforcement operations.

But NSA and the CIA have taken the actual national security intention far beyond self-defense with the aim of spying upon the entire world, in order to influence foreign governments and private business decision-making and actions.

Even before the XKEYSCORE program, ECHELON was used to undermine a deal between the European firm Airbus, and Boeing-McDonnell Douglas with which it was trying to secure a $6 billion contract. Raytheon was among other weapons companies garnering such favors from the NSA, whose information gained from spying helped Raytheon win a $1.3 billion contract to provide radar to Brazil, edging out French company Thomson-CSF.

Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt poses for a selfie with spy-king Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron at Nelson Mandela’s funeral. [Source: news.wjct.org]

This was yet another example of Snowden’s point about how mass surveillance had transcended any legitimate security function, and was instead being used to benefit multinational corporations and solidify corrupt arms and other business deals.

Spying Eyes Ready for Nuclear World War

NSA shares XKEYSCORE with selected allies, who submit to the U.S. as the world’s policeman. The first is the UK. The UKUSA Agreement was signed on March 5, 1946, to spy upon the Soviet Union. Already the year before, at the close of the war in Europe, Winston Churchill had devised Operation Unthinkable—a surprise army attack upon Soviet forces in Europe with the possible use of atomic weapons against Moscow, Stalingrad and Kiev.

The U.S. was still constructing its first atomic bombs (Manhattan Project). President Harry Truman told Churchill he did not have enough nuclear bombs as the first two were to be used against Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Operation Unthinkable was put on the shelf as the Labor party won the July 5, 1945, elections.

The following year, however, Truman incorporated Churchill’s atomic bomb strategy against the Soviets in his Operation Pincher. Fortunately, the Soviet Union acquired its own atomic weapons in 1949 before the US-UK had sufficient atomic bombs for a first strike. Nuclear weaponry balance of power has prevented a nuclear world war, although today we stand at 100 seconds before midnight per the Doomsday Clock.[4]

In 1955, the UKUSA pact was extended to Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

radome at RAF Menwith Hill, a site with satellite uplink capabilities believed to be used by ECHELON. [Source: Wikipedia.org]

These Anglophone countries, known as Five Eyes, later shared the first global electronic spying ECHELON program started in the late 1960s. This network of military espionage evolved into a global system for intercepting private and commercial communications, “industrial espionage.”

In 1972, the left-wing Ramparts Magazine first exposed ECHELON, NSA analyst Perry Fellwock blew the whistle on its existence under the pseudonym Winslow Peck. He showed the widespread involvement of NSA and CIA personnel in drugs and human smuggling, and that CIA operatives were burning villages in China in an attempt to undermine the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

The only official restrictions set upon Five Eyes is that they must not spy on their own citizens. Snowden proved that the U.S. does, however. While U.S. authorities have lied about the fact that they do not spy upon everyone in the U.S., England passed a law, the Investigatory Powers Act of 2016, granting the state the power to record anyone’s browsing history, text messages, and connection logs. The USA PATRIOT Act, following 9/11, allows the government to force social media to turn over any information they have on customers—that means all of us. 

Israel is suspected of being the sixth eye, but this has never been confirmed, just as its illegal nuclear bombs have never been officially acknowledged.

Following the formation of Five Eyes, in 1976, Denmark took the initiative, with U.S. approval, to form what is today 9 Eyes, adding Denmark, Norway, France and the Netherlands (NL). 9 Eyes are of second rank in the spying club to 5 Eyes. The same applies to the last of the spying partners, 14 Eyes, adding Germany, Italy, Spain, Belgium and Sweden to the list of U.S. vassal states.

The network of military espionage has evolved into a global alliance for intercepting private and commercial communications. Originally known as the 5 Eyes, then the 9 Eyes, and now the 14 Eyes. [Source: vpmentor.com]

NSA uses some Asian countries in a parallel network (Japan, South Korea and Singapore). Snowden, and now Denmark’s newest whistleblower, showed that countries in the Eyes alliances engage in regular mass surveillance of their own citizens and freely share that intelligence with other nations, representing an even stronger threat to ordinary people using the internet.

Besides land-based electronic surveillance, there are hundreds of transoceanic submarine cables carrying information between many countries. For decades, Denmark has had a key European cable connected to the U.S., which NSA taps into. In addition, there are new submarine commercial cables.

Earlier Intelligence Whistleblower Jailed

Denmark’s first defense intelligence whistleblower, Major Frank Grevil, leaked secret information in 2004 that there was no evidence that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. This information was forwarded to then Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who lied to the public, stating he was “absolutely certain” Iraq had such weapons.

He convinced a majority in parliament to declare war on Iraq, the only nation to actually declare war, and hundreds of Danish soldiers were sent to kill people in Iraq. This was the first time that Denmark had declared war since 1864, then against Germany, which turned out to be a foolish disaster.

Whistleblower Frank Grevil. [Source: faglbladet3f.dk]

Authorities discovered Grevil to be the whistleblower. He was arrested for divulging state secrets. U.S. whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg came to Denmark to help his defense. Grevil was found guilty and served four months in prison, while war criminal Rasmussen served two terms as Prime Minister. The U.S. then rewarded him with the top post in NATO.


No consequences! Regardless of the conspiracy in commission of crimes between Denmark’s military intelligence and the United States intelligence agencies, the Danish government, parliament, military and so-called civil oversight committee will do absolutely nothing to correct these illegalities and illegal business will continue as usual.

That is, in my words, the essence of what the DR news analysis program “Deadline” concluded on November 26. The secretive investigation just set up will take at least a year. Only five parliamentarians, representing five of the eight parliamentary political parties, will see what investigators decide to present; in any case, the politicians cannot say anything about it to anyone. The ministers of state, justice and war will see the report. The TET committee may or may not get to see it.

Will the latest revelations about illegally collecting information in the interest of private corporation Lockheed Martin, and rampant spying upon Denmark’s European neighbors be part of the investigation? We don’t know. Nor do we know if the unknown investigators even have the power to interrogate suspects and see all relevant documents. No relevant leaders would answer “Deadline” reporters’ questions.

Representatives of two political parties were on the program. The Conservative Party spokesperson, Naser Kadar, said, “Everybody spies. If it is OK or not [legal or not], it is a consequence of our joint security with the United States.”

Kristian Hegaard, a spokesperson for the Liberal-Center party (Radikal Venstre), agreed that secrecy is preeminent, but added that the civilian control committee could have more access to FE’s activities, as is the case with several European countries. In Sweden, parliamentarians have open debates on how much surveillance should be allowed on its citizenry.

In a 2009 law, several restrictions were enacted on collecting massive information through fiber-cables. Its civilian oversight committee has greater control powers than in Denmark. The same is the case in Holland. Following Snowden’s revelations, a referendum majority voted against a government measure allowing intelligence services to tap into fiber-cables.

The government then made several adjustments, including three-stage legal guarantees with some openness about what is collected. In Germany, and even Hungary, parliament has greater control over intelligence services than in Denmark.

Kader’s reply is what most Danes think, and why there is no hue and cry: “Confidentiality is more important than my [our] curiosity. I won’t have so much to know. I trust our military intelligence.”


Ron Ridenour is a U.S.-born author and journalist, anti-war and civil rights activist since 1961. After working for Cuban national media (1988-96), he now lives in Denmark. CAM co-founder Phil Agee wrote commentaries to two of his dozen books: “Yankee Sandinistas: Interviews with North Americans Living and Working in the New Nicaragua” and “Backfire: CIA’s Biggest Burn.” See:  “The Russian Peace Threat: Pentagon on Alert” and “Winding Brook Stories” at Amazon and Lulu.  Other work can be found at ronridenour.com;  


[1] Terma is Denmark’s largest weapons firm. It specializes in electronic parts for war aircraft, including the F-35, and has been charged with illegal sale of war equipment to Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates in their war against Yemen’s population.

[2] Lockheed Martin is the world’s largest war contractor: 85% of its sales are to the U.S. government-military; 13% to foreign governments-military. Its 2019 revenues were $60 billion. It also works in surveillance for NSA/CIA/FBI. It “donates” $15-20 million annually to U.S. politicians’ campaigns. According to a Sludge review of financial disclosures, 51 members of Congress and their spouses own between $2.3 and $5.8 million worth of stocks in companies that are among the top 30 defense contractors in the world. Eighteen members of Congress, combined, own as much as $760,000 worth of stock of Lockheed Martin. The value of Lockheed Martin stock surged 4.3% the day after Iran’s top General, Qassem Soleimani, was assassinated by a Trump-ordered drone. The Members of Congress Who Profit From War – Sludge (readsludge.com)

Four companies—Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, and General Dynamics—make up 90% of arms sales to Saudi Arabia in deals worth over $125 billion, according to a July 2019 report by the Center for International Policy. American-made weapons have been used to murder more than 100,000 people in Yemen.

[3] ECHELON was exposed in the mid-1990s for its electronic spy stations around the globe, which intercept data transmitted via telephones, faxes and computers. See The 14 eyes, 9 eyes, 5 eyes agreements (Explained) – ProtonVPN Blog.

[4] See my book, The Russian Peace Threat: Pentagon on Alert, chapters 10-11. Amazon.com: The Russian Peace Threat: Pentagon on Alert (9780996487061): Ridenour, Ron: Books. See also Daniel Ellsberg’s latest book, “The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner.” The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner | IndieBound.org regarding Operations Unthinkable and Pincher. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists invented the Doomsday Clock as a weathervane of how close humanity is to a global apocalypse, including nuclear war. In 1947, at its inception, we were seven minutes to midnight. In January 2020, the clock was set at 100 seconds to midnight. See Doomsday Clock.