Justice Minister Lars Barfod has been called into Parliamentary Council
following reports that a secret American data collection unit has been
collating information on suspicious people in Norway, with fears that the
same activity may be taking place in Denmark.
The Security Incident Management Analysis System (SIMAS) calls for extensive
intelligence gathering on local human and vehicle activities in the vicinity
of American properties abroad in order to counter possible or potential
the US SIMAS memo here (external)
While a State Department official in Washington says that the activity has
taken place with the full knowledge of local authorities, that does not
appear to be the case in Norway. Both the former and current justice
ministers in Norway have said they have been unaware that a 15-20 person
Surveillance Detection Unit has been monitoring for SIMAS in the Norwegian
capital for a decade.
It remains unclear whether the Norwegian Intelligence Service has been aware
of the activity, although two previous heads of security, dating up to 2009,
have said they were ‘surprised’ at the disclosures and had been unaware of
what was going on.
Following the disclosures in Norway, Danish legal experts tell Politiken that
a similar activity in Denmark would be illegal, although it remains unclear
as to whether Danish consent has been sought and received and by whom.
“If something like this has taken place at an embassy in Denmark, that would
be illegal intelligence activity,” says Criminal Law Professor Jørn
Vestergaard, adding that the activity would be a breach of diplomatic rules.
Another legal expert, Professor Jens Vedsted, a former member of the
Intelligence and Security Commissions, agrees; “If this has taken place
without the consent of the Danish authorities, it is illegal.”
Former Head of the Danish Intelligence and Security Service (PET) Jørgen
Bonnichsen says he is amazed.
“I have never heard of SIMAS. And if it’s true then it is clearly illegal
intelligence activity in Denmark. PET, and only PET is allowed to operate on
Danish soil,” Bonnichsen says.
The current head of PET Jakob Scharf has not wanted to comment on the issue
but says in an e-mail that on principle his service does not comment on
foreign embassy activities in Denmark, but: “If PET discovers illegal
activities, we would of course take action”.
The Justice Ministry has not yet been able to disclose whether the US Embassy
has been given permission to register Danish nationals in Denmark. The US
Embassy has not wished to comment on the issue.