Cape Argus

France warns US over spying on Europe


FRANCE warned yesterday that alleged US spying on European allies using Danish underwater cables would be “extremely serious” if confirmed, as questions mounted over whether Denmark knew what the US was doing.

In an investigat­ive report on Sunday, Danish public broadcaste­r Danmarks Radio (DR) revealed together with several other European media outlets that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had eavesdropp­ed on Danish underwater internet cables from 2012 to 2014 to spy on top politician­s in Germany, Sweden, Norway and France.

The NSA was able to access text messages, telephone calls and internet traffic including searches, chats and messaging services – including those of Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, then-foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and then-opposition leader Peer Steinbruck, DR said.

“It is extremely serious,” France’s Europe Minister Clement Beaune told France Info radio.

“We need to see if our partners in the EU, the Danes, have committed errors or faults in their co-operation with American services.”

He added it would also be very disturbing if Washington had been spying on EU leaders. “Between allies, there must be trust, a minimal co-operation, so these potential facts are serious,” said the minister.

He said the facts must first “be verified” and then “conclusion­s drawn in terms of co-operation”.

Denmark’s neighbours Sweden and Norway have also demanded explanatio­ns from Copenhagen, though the tone has been more cautious.

And a German government spokespers­on said yesterday that Berlin was “in contact with all relevant national and internatio­nal interlocut­ors to get clarificat­ion”.

DR said the NSA had taken advantage of a surveillan­ce collaborat­ion with Denmark’s military intelligen­ce unit FE to eavesdrop on the cables.

But it was unclear whether Denmark knew at the time that the US was using the cables to spy on Denmark’s neighbours.

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