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Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s famous person flagbearer for digital rights, is dealing with awkward questions on hi-tech snooping that allegedly befell whereas she was seen as Denmark’s strongest politician.
Danish media outlet DR reported Sunday that Copenhagen helped American spies harvest intelligence from Germany, Sweden and different European international locations between 2012 and 2014 — a interval when Vestager was broadly considered as essentially the most influential participant in authorities, in her position as de facto deputy prime minister, with a seat on a committee for safety oversight.
That timeline threatens to embarrass the European Fee’s digital supremo, who’s greatest identified internationally for her landmark antitrust circumstances in opposition to the likes of Google and Apple. There are two potential situations relating to the U.S. espionage and each pose a political hazard. She both knew in regards to the alleged U.S. spy exercise via Danish services, which might tarnish her transparency credentials, or she did not know, which raises deeper questions on accountability within the Danish authorities and safety providers throughout her years in workplace.
The revelations have gone down badly for Denmark. France’s President Emmanuel Macron stated he was “ready for solutions” from Copenhagen and Washington, whereas U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden has added gas to the hearth by alleging Denmark collaborated in a U.S. plot to kidnap him in 2013.
Sweden’s Protection Minister Peter Hultqvist additionally instructed POLITICO he anticipated a correct response from Copenhagen.
“The media stories on the alleged digital surveillance of Swedish politicians and officers is one thing I take severely,” Hultqvist stated. “I’ve requested the Danish minister of defence whether or not platforms in Denmark have been used for surveillance of Swedish pursuits, or if different actors have used Danish platforms as a method to conduct surveillance in Sweden.”
Patrick Breyer, a German Pirate Get together member of the European Parliament within the Greens group, additionally insisted there was a rigidity between the Danish report and the commissioner’s position. “I feel that Ms. Vestager should face questions and should reply them even whether it is uncomfortable as a result of the Fee itself is in lots of respects proposing issues relating to surveillance, together with mass surveillance and knowledge retention,” he stated.
Cryptic on the cryptographers
For now, Vestager is remaining sphinx-like on what she knew. On a degree of precept, she stated that she was anti-eavesdropping. “I feel I’ve all the time held this view, that: No, you shouldn’t spy in your neighbors,” she instructed reporters on Thursday.
However she was evasive when requested whether or not she knew in regards to the spying throughout her time in authorities, solely saying that intelligence didn’t fall beneath her official ministerial portfolio.
“After I was a minister in Denmark, I used to be minister of the economic system and the inside. Being minister within the inside in Denmark is having the duty for elections and referendums, and the workings of municipalities and areas from an financial and from a authorized perspective. There isn’t any intelligence providers inside [the responsibilities] that you just’re asking,” she stated in response to a query on whether or not she knew in regards to the spying.
Vestager didn’t deal with what perception, if any, her position on the federal government safety committee gave her.
The problem with Vestager’s response about her restricted ministerial remit is that she was universally acknowledged to carry sway within the 2011-2015 authorities of Helle Thorning-Schmidt that reached far past her formal portfolio. Vestager took on her competitors position in Brussels in 2014.
Regardless of being the chief of the smaller social gathering, she was rated as extra influential than Thorning-Schmidt in a intently watched 2012 rating by altinget.dk, an internet site for Danish political insiders.
“The prime minister is the formal boss, however all the identical she is simply quantity two on the listing,” a chunk accompanying the listing stated.
Danish specialists contacted by POLITICO stated that the query of Vestager’s involvement in intelligence-related decision-making in 2012-2014 was troublesome to evaluate, not least as a result of the categorised materials which DR has reported on up to now has stated little about political oversight.
“We don’t have that many laborious details on this,” stated Thomas Wegener Friis, an intelligence researcher on the College of Southern Denmark. “It’s quite troublesome at the moment to say for certain what and if Vestager knew.”
The specialists stated it may very well be that Vestager’s senior position in authorities nonetheless didn’t entail entry to extremely delicate operational intelligence. That may very well be as a result of Thorning-Schmidt withheld it from her, or as a result of Thorning-Schmidt additionally didn’t know in regards to the alleged NSA operation, probably as a result of intelligence businesses had been withholding it from her. Thorning-Schmidt, who now co-chairs an oversight board at social media firm Fb, couldn’t be reached for remark.
Case not closed
With the European Fee in search of to push new regulation of areas resembling surveillance and confidentiality of communication networks, it will be important we all know what Vestager’s “take” is on the U.S. and Danish spying allegations, stated Breyer, the German MEP.
Sophie in ‘t Veld, a Dutch MEP with the liberal Renew Europe grouping, stated it was excessive time that alleged intra-European spying acquired correct consideration, one thing she stated had not occurred over current years.
“The factor now’s, can we wish to be periodically outraged each time one thing like this surfaces, or are we truly going to sort out it?” in ‘t Veld requested.
For now, many of the strain has fallen on Denmark’s present Protection Minister Trine Bramsen, who has solely been within the job since 2019. She stated that “systematic wiretapping of shut allies is unacceptable.”
That did not assuage issues, and the questions look unlikely to simply go away.
In Sweden, Protection Minister Hultqvist stated the difficulty was being examined and his phrases urged the matter may dangle over Vestager and different Danish leaders previous and current for a while to return.
“The method of gathering details about these media stories is now underway and we should enable this course of to take its time,” he stated.
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