Having watched several NATO partners get skewered by selectively sourced press stories alleging nefarious espionage activities, all care of the defector Edward Snowden, Denmark has done a smart thing and let its foreign intelligence service get ahead of the Snowden Operation, before they, too, become a target. Copenhagen’s move is likely driven by the recent move by their neighbor Norway, which corrected significant inaccuracies in Snowden-based reporting about Norwegian intelligence.
In an interview with the Copenhagen daily Politiken, the head of the Danish Defense Intelligence Service (Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste, FE for short), Thomas Ahrenkiel provides never-before-heard details about what his agency does in the realm of signals intelligence (SIGINT). Ahrenkiel admits that his service on a monthly basis “registers millions of pieces of information” – a reference to what NSA terms metadata – in support of Danish national interests and Danish troops abroad, and some of that is shared with allies. Discussion of FE SIGINT activities supporting Danish forces abroad is an apparent reference to the 300 Danish troops currently serving with ISAF in Afghanistan, but Ahrenkiel did not confirm that.
Since FE expects Denmark to soon be targeted by the Snowden Operation as Norway recently was, including allegations about SIGINT metadata, Ahrenkiel’s interview is an effort to correct what he terms “misunderstandings” that the leaks have created about what NATO intelligence services actually do. As the FE director explains, “this is not a matter of large-scale American surveillance of Danish mobile telephones.”
While I suspect that the sensation-driven Snowden media spectacle that’s being sustained by activists masquerading as journalists will still target Denmark despite this lucid explanation, it’s an encouraging sign that Copenhagen understands the stakes in this game and wants to cut short the worst lies about what FE does. I‘ve encouraged NSA leadership to do the same and, since Glenn Greenwald and others in the Wikileaks circle have assured us that more, and worse, is coming about NSA and Allied operations, it’s time to get ahead of this now in the public eye. The Danes have broken the proverbial code here, NSA and its partners need to do likewise.