Denmark’s Intelligence and Security Agency (PET) Chief Jakob Scharf has categorically denied that his agency was involved in furnishing information to American authorities, which led to the liquidation of al-Qaeda’s Anwar al-Awlaki in 2011.
“It is an absolute rule at PET that we are a civilian intelligence agency. We cannot and will not take part in operations that do not have a civilian goal,” Scharf says in his first interview since an apparently dissatisfied former informant has alleged PET involvement in plans to kill al-Awlaki.
“We cannot and will not take part in operations that have the goal of killing people irrespective of whether these are seen as civilians or military personnel. It is an absolute for us that such (operations) are outside the realm of what PET can, what it is allowed to and what PET is prepared to,” Scharf says, adding that his agency always determines whether sharing information with partners is defensible.
“It is also clear that we do not just accept guarantees, but also take our precautions to make sure that cooperation is not used towards an objective that PET cannot or will not be part of,” he says.
In a series of articles in Jyllands-Posten, Morten Storm, who claims to be a former informant for PET, has made wide-reaching claims of PET involvement in a CIA-led operation to locate and kill Anwar al-Awlaki in 2011.
The latest disclosure purports to be a taped conversation between Storm and a PET officer that has prompted demands for the Justice Minister to explain PET’s role in the affair.
Asked if PET would share information about the whereabouts of a known terrorist, given that it is well known that the CIA liquidates terrorists, Scharf says: “It is certainly information that must be handled carefully and where you must be careful about precisely what detailed information you share, and what you are contributing to.”
“But it is also important to say that localising individuals and networks is an important part of any intelligence operation. But we take precautionary measures to ensure that that sort of information cannot of itself be used by others to carry out operations that we cannot be part of,” Scharf says.
Nonetheless, Scharf says that there is grey area where information-sharing on localising terrorists can take place depending on the circumstances.
“It depends who we in such a case are sharing information with and what the information can be used for. One could imagine situations in which we could share such information with a foreign intelligence agency, if we feel sufficiently sure that the information of itself cannot be used to carry out an operation that we cannot condone,” Scharf says.
Storm, who for some time was a Muslim convert, has furnished several taped conversations which have been construed as documenting that PET cooperated with the CIA in localising leading terrorists abroad.
Scharf declines to comment on the authenticity of the tapes, but says that in general informants are not always given the full picture by PET.
“This means that even if you feel that conversations between us and sources are documented, it is important to realise the full context in which conversations take place. Sometimes these may be conversations aimed at calming a source,” Scharf says.
Asked directly whether PET has been directly or indirectly involved in enabling the United States to kill al-Awlaki, Scharf is adamant.