Operation Eikonal in Danish

The NSA has apparently used access to an Internet node in Denmark to spy on German politicians like Angela Merkel. The US secret service NSA has apparently spied on German politicians with the help of Denmark. The Danish foreign and military intelligence service Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste (FE) has therefore enabled the NSA to use the secret listening station Sandagergårdan near Copenhagen, reported the research network of WDR, NDR and Süddeutscher Zeitung. There is an important Internet hub for various submarine cables that the intelligence services have tapped.

Top German politicians such as Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU), Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the SPD candidate for Chancellor Peer Steinbrück are also said to have been among the espionage targets. Politicians from Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and France are also said to have been spied on.

The background to the new revelations is the previously secret Dunhammer Report. In 2015, Danish intelligence and IT specialists compiled the extent to which the Danish intelligence service had cooperated with the NSA. A team from Danmarks Radio (DR) only spoke to the authors of the report, who remained anonymous.

The fact that the NSA is likely to be tapping an Internet node in Denmark had already become known in 2013 through the revelations of US whistleblower Edward Snowden. The Danish newspaper Dagbladet Information reported at the time that several third countries are involved in the Rampart A program, which is supposed to tap into submarine fibre-optic lines around the world. This probably also included Denmark and Germany.

Use of XKeyscore

The NSA program XKeyscore was used for this, says the report of the research network. This program is used to analyze Internet traffic and has also been used by the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) in Bad Aibling since 2007. The program was also made known through the Snowden revelations. According to documents published by the Guardian, the program allows access to “almost everything that a typical user does on the Internet”.

The alleged cooperation between the FE and the NSA shows several parallels to the cooperation between the NSA and the BND. In 2002, Steinmeier, who had now allegedly been bugged, agreed on a memorandum on the cooperation between the two secret services. This cooperation also included indirect access by the NSA to a Deutsche Telekom Internet node in Frankfurt am Main, the so-called Operation Eikonal.

Danish selector affair

In addition, it became known that the NSA had smuggled numerous illegal search terms ( “selectors” ) into the analysis of the data. However, it later became known that the BND itself spied on allies and high-ranking politicians from EU countries with the help of such search terms.

In Denmark, however, the NSA went even further than in Germany. According to the report, the Danish foreign intelligence service helped the Americans to monitor their own government. This is forbidden under Danish law and after it became known in 2020 it led to a wave of indignation. The entire leadership of the FE, including the former head of the secret service Thomas Ahrenkiel, should have resigned. In Germany at that time, BND President Gerhard Schindler had to vacate his post.