back to article The Viking Snowden: Denmark spy chief 'relieved of duty' after whistleblower reveals illegal snooping on citizens

Denmark's top foreign intelligence chief has been suspended for spying on Danish citizens illegally for up to six years after a whistleblower released a trove of documents to government regulators. In a press release [PDF, in Danish] yesterday, the independent regulator of the Danish security services (Tilsynet med …

  1. Alister Silver badge

    It’s easy to see parallels between this situation and that of Edward Snowden,

    However, the difference is, that Snowden knew that in America there was no truly independant oversight within government, and had to take the step of releasing information publicly to journalists to get anything to happen.

    In the Land of the Free, if he had contacted the Intelligence Oversight Committee, he would have been quietly disappeared, and his information not acted on.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      "In the Land of the Free, if he had contacted the Intelligence Oversight Committee, he would have been quietly disappeared, and his information not acted on."

      In Yes Minister terms that sentence manages to combine two examples of getting rid of the difficult bit in the title.

    2. Claptrap314 Silver badge

      Snowden, having God-like powers, knew that in America...

      FTFY

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    She/her

    > it sought, and received, repeat support from the Defense Minister in its investigation. The final report was delivered to him on Friday

    The minister is a woman. So is the prime minister and several other ministers.

  3. A random security guy Bronze badge

    How far up the government did it go?

    I would not be surprised if the PM's were aware of it. Plausible deniability if fairly powerful. Maybe the concept is that the spies only report issues after finding another way to verify the claims. The PM knows that something fishy went on but feigns ignorance.

  4. Captain Hogwash Silver badge

    When spellcheck goes wrong

    "...then past the information onto others..."

    1. DJV Silver badge

      Re: When spellcheck goes wrong

      Everyoen mkaes typos and mistooks! The way to handel it propaly is to click the "Tips and Corrections" link and tell El Reg directly - not to raven about it in teh comments!

  5. Big_Boomer Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Corruption,... again

    This time it's moral corruption, but we seem to either be going through an epidemic of corruption, or else it's always been there but was ignored and tolerated. Every day I find myself more and more disappointed in just how base, corrupt, and despicable the human race is becoming. These days everything seems to be about appearance and how things look, rather than about ethics or empathy.

    1. Kane Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Corruption,... again

      "Every day I find myself more and more disappointed in just how base, corrupt, and despicable the human race is becoming."

      Hah! Fixed that for you.

    2. Smooth Newt Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Corruption,... again

      This time it's moral corruption, but we seem to either be going through an epidemic of corruption, or else it's always been there but was ignored and tolerated.

      I think historically it has always been tolerated by the people with power, and covered up by the people writing about them.

      Although it might not seem like it, the Internet means that we do now live in a golden age where investigative journalism thrives and very little can be covered up for very long.

      Despite the depredations of Russian bot farms, left and right wing populists etc, and the debilitating inability of about half the population to spot the most transparently obvious of lies, outside China we are no longer in a situation where virtually all media reach is controlled either by a few very rich people or the government.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: Corruption,... again

        > no longer in a situation where virtually all media reach is controlled either by a few very rich people or the government

        Media empires have indeed lost a lot of their power (although definitely not all!), but unfortunately the result isn't a more balanced and truthful information - It's rather a deafening cacophony of ultra-partisan mouthpieces feeding their respective flock of fanatics the increasingly brazen lies they need to keep their crazy world views from collapsing.

        Truth in politics has never really existed (being highly subjective), but till now there was at least some pretense of honesty: One wouldn't outright lie, just "embellish the facts". I'm wondering what would had happened if the Watergate scandal had happened today. Nixon would most likely had shrugged it off, while his supporters screamed "Fake news!"...

        Well, it's our world, we made it like that. :-p

      2. herman Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: Corruption,... again

        He who wins the battle, writes the history and if he is very good, he can make the whole thing rhyme as well, like Homer did with the Iliad and the Odyssey.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Corruption,... again

          Well if you want a rhyme...

          There was a spy chief from Denmark,

          whose morals all came from a shark.

          He lied and he lied

          about when he had spied

          and now we're being kept in the dark.

    3. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: Corruption,... again

      It is true that there has recently been a tsunami of people abusing their power and status, and brazenly denying anything wrong even in the face of overwhelming proof (no, I'm not just thinking of the OHSG).

      That being said, it is hardly new. ICANN has been trailblazing on that front for more than a decade now, and nothing appears to be stopping it. On the contrary, it has clearly spawned admirers (eh, Pai ?).

    4. UCAP

      Re: Corruption,... again

      It is a historical truth that, whenever you have power of any sort (no matter how small and insignificant), you will also have people who will willingly abuse that power in order to further their own agenda.

      1. Smooth Newt Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Corruption,... again

        It is a historical truth that, whenever you have power of any sort (no matter how small and insignificant), you will also have people who will willingly abuse that power in order to further their own agenda.

        The people who are inclined to abuse power are often the ones most driven to accumulating it. We can all think of very powerful national leaders, past and present, who have strikingly similar personality defects.

        Douglas Adams got it right - "To summarize: it is a well-known fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it."

        1. Teiwaz Silver badge

          Re: Corruption,... again

          Douglas Adams got it right - "To summarize: it is a well-known fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it."

          Frank Herbert wrote in (can't recall if it was in 'Chapterhouse Dune') that 'Power attracts the corruptible'

          “All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible.”

      2. iron Silver badge

        Re: Corruption,... again

        As George Orwell put it in Animal Farm (stolen from Lord Acton btw)... Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    5. Evil Auditor Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Corruption,... again

      ...rather than about ethics or empathy

      There's only a veneer of ethics on the human society. And empathy probably doesn't extend further than everyone's own tribe (i.e. the contemporary equivalent of tribe).

      1. Glen 1 Silver badge

        Re: Corruption,... again

        "probably doesn't extend further than everyone's own tribe"

        Indeed, and with the internet, ones tribe is so much bigger, but so are the "others",

        Case in point, this site (these forums) over the years has developed it's own culture. Healthy cynicism of hyperbole while quite happy to cheer on success. Holding knowledge and expertise in high regard ("boffinry"), while having disdain for the manglement culture of getting paid more than the actual experts for other people's work.

        However, In recent years, it seems to have been infected by... whats the right word... Daily Mail types? No, that implies political affiliation. Dude Bros? People who make veiled homophobic/transphobic/racist comments under the umbrella of "snowflakes". You see it in some of the "name change" articles that have popped up recently. I *don't* mean the "Well that's jolly inconvenient" type posts, they go further than that. The folk who think trans or non white folk are the "other". "PC Brigade" or some other epithet.

        I first noticed it around *here* during the Brexit debate. There is (was) a debate to be had, but it just came down to "IS NOT", and "IS SO - SOVRINTEEE!" Many of us would craft a well reasoned response going point by point with links to sources, but would just be dismissed as propaganda. Quite an effective response, as trolls go.

        No, I'm not new to the internet. You see this kind of crap on Facebook and Twitter all the time. I am however, dismayed to find that attitude encroaching *here*.

        I read some of those posts and was reminded of the guy on the soapbox:

        Don't be a sucker (clip)

      2. Lomax

        Re: Corruption,... again

        The science is on empathy is actually quite interesting.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Empathy#Development

        It's a trait that is shared by most mammals, and humanity is likely not the most empathetic species, though we are near the top. Dolphins for example, have three times as many Von Economo neurons as humans do, and the bonobo has also been shown to be a highly empathetic animal, perhaps more so than we are. But we could not have climbed to the technologically sophisticated heights we find ourselves at without a considerable amount of empathy. High-technology requires cooperation between large groups of people, which would quickly break down if we were lacking empathy. It's an evolved trait which gives us an advantage. Per definition though, empathy must include those not part of our own tribe; that's what makes it a thing.

    6. chivo243 Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: Corruption,... again

      Humans, meh. Greedy and aggressive. No wonder they are still alone in the galaxy...

  6. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Hardly democratic ... but not unusual in dodgy business circles.

    despite the spy programs he exposed later being ruled unconstitutional, no one within the NSA or related intelligence services was ever suspended - even after the US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied in Congress about US domestic surveillance.

    Clapper faced no penalty, retired on a full pension, and began a new career on the conference and TV chat show circuit.

    Some would venture that is atypical and typical of a rogue state and rogue agencies.

    1. Tomato42

      Re: Hardly democratic ... but not unusual in dodgy business circles.

      it is quite typical of dumbuckingstan though

    2. Martin Summers

      Re: Hardly democratic ... but not unusual in dodgy business circles.

      Bad bot

    3. David Shaw

      Re: Hardly democratic ... but not unusual in dodgy business circles.

      The only other country who recently arrested and imprisoned their spy-chief AND then their conservative president Park Geun-hye was South Korea

      Aug 30, 2017 · Won Sei-hoon, former head of the National Intelligence Service arrested for political meddling, election fixing etc, [using dark money & keyboard-warriors to do the stuff that many countries are still doing]

      Feb 7, 2020 · Seoul (AFP). A former South Korean spy chief received a seven-year jail sentence Friday for using taxpayer money for political meddling in favour of the then conservative government,... https://www.france24.com/en/20200207-former-south-korea-spy-chief-jailed-for-political-meddling

      The wider problem is here, [according to Snowden) we have a matrix of tiered Intelligence Agencies ranged against us, the people, not against external hobgoblins. These agencies, the 17 in USA, the ones that we don't know about in UK, are all doing Danish/S.Korean tricks. In some countries, UK, well........

      I'm impressed with Danish society, that they have sacked, maybe arrested these criminals, but they are not dealing with the bigger picture, the autocratic Russian KGB is certainly a threat, but the bigger threat plausibly comes from the anti-democratic functioning of our KGBs. Re-read Snowden, jtrig - tie it in with Cambridge Anal. tech, worry.

      (See if you can find a more updated BBC ‘bubble’ story than this one? https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-40824793 , doesn’t seem to cover the fact that Korean “head of MI5” was re-arrested and jailed for longer, for doing his endemic intelligence tricks; BBC got no reporters?)

  7. lglethal Silver badge
    Go

    "no one within the NSA or related intelligence services was ever suspended - even after the US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied in Congress about US domestic surveillance. Clapper faced no penalty, retired on a full pension..."

    This is the part i never understood. Usually politicians of any stripe once they catch some one in a lie, especially one directed at them, go for the jugular. Doesn't usually matter which side of the aisle they're from.

    That Clapper got to walk away without so much as a dressing down, is scarcely believable. He must have had some great dirt on various Poli's...

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      President attacks security services, what do the security services do in response?

      President Obama certainly shouldn't have planned any motorcades in Dallas if he had investigated

    2. ThatOne Silver badge
      Devil

      > That Clapper got to walk away without so much as a dressing down, is scarcely believable

      Why, he just did his job. You can't reproach him for lying, stealing and cheating while at the helm of an organization who's job description is literally "Lie, steal and cheat"... It would almost had been disappointing if he had confessed, a disgusting display of weakness.

      The problem here is the organization doesn't serve the country (as people might be tempted to believe), it first and foremost serves itself.

    3. herman Silver badge
      Devil

      "He must have had some great dirt on various Poli's..." It is not 'What you know'. It is not 'Who you know' either. It is 'What you know, about who you know'.

  8. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    2. herman Silver badge

      Well, it happened in the past.

      Here is Ian's take on it:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsCyC1dZiN8

  9. R0gwRtD2pVw
    Trollface

    So a whistle-blower leaks information which cant be covered up, is anyone surprised at the standing down? Its standard textbook procedure to stand down, let matters blow over then popup in some other cushy number, James Clapper is just one of many, but hey lets have our jingle jangled by the media, its so 1984.

    Polticos are just doing what they are expected to do, but there will be drinks all round at the weekend country club, that's for sure. Surprised this hit the news really because all country's are at it, but I would be interested in who the whistle-blower is and why they leaked. Was it a native leaker or Johnny Foreigner? That could be more telling, when considering bigger pictures.

    The paradox is this: how do you protect the country if you cant spy and monitor everyone?

    Its like an unwritten rule that isnt explained to everyone because some people cant handle the truth to quote Jack Nicholson from the film A few good men.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      >how do you protect the country if you cant spy and monitor everyone?

      How do you protect the country if people are allowed to vote for the wrong person?

    2. tiggity Silver badge

      " how do you protect the country if you cant spy and monitor everyone?"

      How about by actually using intelligence?

      You do not need to spy on / monitor the majority of people

      Just that once the capability to do that arrives then the security services (of many countries) just cant resist doing it.

      Plus priorities - e.g. in UK, historically huge amounts of resources wasted on (often ultra peaceful quakers) members of CAAT (campaign against the arms trade) who at worst cause a bit of inconvenience e.g. chain themselves to a fighter plane or whatever.

      Meanwhile, after many terrorist attacks in the UK its so often mentioned that "the perpetrator was known to the security services" - great lot of good them being "known" did, its the people intent on murder you need to throw resources at, not peaceful protesters whos agenda you happen to hate (be it anti war, pro environment, anti fox hunting, whatever - FFS even throw lots of resources at the worthy but mostly harmless XR folk)

      1. Graham Cobb Silver badge

        It is partly our fault -- and we need to fix it.

        Our newspapers, and even our politicians, make a lot of noise about tiny acts of terrorism. Who can blame the security services for reacting by demanding more power, more people and more data?

        In fact, we should be celebrating that terrorists are reduced to using cars and knives instead of bombs and automatic weapons. I want our security services to be preventing "spectaculars" and I don't worry if they miss a one or two person conspiracy even if "the perpetrator was known to the security services".

        Of course the police should investigate and catch the perpetrators and their conspirators - but that shouldn't involve the security services.

        1. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          As Benjamin Franklin said, "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."

          If you do not have privacy, you do not have liberty

    3. ThatOne Silver badge
      Big Brother

      > how do you protect the country if you cant spy and monitor everyone?

      That's fallacious. So in your mind an intelligence agency needs to keep tabs on all the 7800000000 people on this planet, just in case somebody might do something "of interest"?

      That's a "surveillance state", and nobody wants to live in such a world (see icon), because it doesn't necessarily spell security, it only spells more leverage on people and as a result, less oversight of the powers that be (which means more arbitrary, corruption, etc.).

      1. David Shaw
        Coat

        Part of the interconnected matrix (their words) of tiered partner intelligence agencies were recently reined in, again, (an unusual situation - as our privacy mostly just gets worse)

        BND here, being told off, for snooping on everyone

        https://www.dw.com/en/german-intelligence-cant-spy-on-foreigners-outside-germany/a-53492342

  10. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

    Is it a case of proper forward-looking legislation and regulatory oversight?

    No, can't be... Not in this day and age, surely?

  11. Mahhn

    Respect Denmark

    I have nothing but respect for those that show Denmark doesn't tolerate corruption.

    Unfortunately much of the rest of the world's governments thrive on corruption.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Respect Denmark

      I'll agree to that with modifications:

      I will have nothing but respect if those people show Denmark doesn't tolerate corruption, but if they fail to do so, they will go to the bottom of my respect list.

      It has started well. They announced that they were investigating, removed the person in charge of the responsible organization, and appear to be doing something. I expect this to be an investigation that does something, results in changes to remove the power that was abused, consequences for the guilty, and information for the public. That information doesn't have to be everything classified, but a rigorous accounting of the crimes and the actions taken to punish the perpetrators and prevent recurrence. If Danish politicians want my respect, they can do all of this and will get it in spades.

  12. Mark192 Bronze badge

    "FE's management has failed to follow up on or further investigate indications of espionage within the area of ​​the Ministry of Defense."

    On the one hand they over-reached against their own citizens, on the other they failed to react to espionage from a foreign power.

  13. msobkow

    The difference is the Americans only *pretend* to be a free and democratic country. They aren't, and never have been. Not in the pure sense of those words.

    No, they're too focused on military, defense, and "intelligence" to prove what their politicians have already decided is the case, such as with the Iraq war "proof" the Americans trotted out that was no such thing in the end (after hundreds of thousands had died, of course, but the Americans "can't" be sued for that because they're so "free" they never even accept consequences for anything they do.)

    So if surveillance happens to sweep up citizens, the American military-minded government just brushes that off as a "cost of doing business" rather than protecting its people's rights. As I said, "freedom" in the US is a sham - you are only as free as their military-minded government permits you to be at the time. The "rights" you have in the US Constitution get trod on by the US government *regularly*. :(

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
      Pint

      You are presenting a view that many of America's enemies would be happy with, America is not going to complain because you're off base, in reality America is run by people making money from whatever happens, currently the economy appears to be in recession but practically a lot of people are making a nice chunk of money from the recession. That's what America is really about, privacy? That's only important if you can figure out how to make money from it, or make money from the lack of it.

      Essentially, we're all someone's lunch here.

      Icon? We have a hurricane coming so I'm having a beer at work.

  14. Piro

    Denmark's databases are very centralised

    Seeing as an extraordinary number of daily activities are logged under a single number which belongs to an individual, it would be trivial to amass an enormous amount of verifiable information about a Danish citizen, with the right access.

  15. Aussie Doc Bronze badge
    Pint

    Whoa.

    Country spys on it's own citizens and gets caught, you say.

    Well, I'm shocked, I tell ya ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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