Cyber-Espionage: US Security Agency Accused of Spying on European Private Companies

Of course, the exceptional Americans in the White House will have us believe that Huawei is the problem. Hypocrites.

A new cyber espionage scandal involving American intelligence agencies is being revealed – this time in Europe. Government ministries and Danish private companies were targets of US espionage, according to a recent report by an anonymous informer. The US National Security Agency (NSA) appears to have used top-secret schemes to allegedly spy on Danish and other Scandinavian ministries and private companies. Details of such activities were revealed in a recent Danish Radio’s article, in which the alleged anonymous informer is referred to as an agent of the Danish Defense Intelligence Service (Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste, FE). Operations would have started around 2015.

Among many pieces of information, the report denounced illegal activities promoted by American intelligence in collaboration with various sectors of Danish intelligence itself, which were conspiring against the interests of their own country by draining information from Danish internet cables and passing it on to external agents. Among several other illegal operations, the report also revealed the espionage against the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Economy of Denmark, as well as neighbouring and allied countries, such as Norway and Sweden, indicating that the limit of such activities is much higher than mere surveillance over Denmark, expanding across a major part of the European continent. According to information contained in the report, the NSA obtained access to fiber optic cables and a data center on the island of Amager, in the south of Copenhagen. From then on, data traffic from the Netherlands, Norway, France and Germany, and political institutions in Denmark were constantly monitored, remaining under full surveillance by American agents.

In addition, it was mentioned that the NSA wanted to obtain more information about the activities of private companies in the defence and military industry, especially Terma, a major Danish company based in Aarhus that stands out internationally in the aerospace industry. According to information in the report, the American interest would have arisen from the moment that the Danish State decided to buy multibillion-dollar fighters to replace its F-16 fleet. At the beginning of the negotiations, Terma and the Swedish company Saab were disputing for a prominent position before the Danish government, but after many debates and long controversies, the government’s choice was to purchase a new fleet of dozens of American F-35 fighters. Apparently, constant surveillance and data-stealing were key points for Washington to take advantage of European companies during the negotiations.

The anonymous informant said he had tried to warn of the dangers of espionage on several previous occasions but was only successful when he turned to the Danish Defense Intelligence Service supervisor, whom he accused of having failed to follow or investigate the various espionage reports. On a later occasion, the current Danish defence minister, Trine Bramsen, announced the resignation of five high-ranking agents of the national secret service. So far, the information is not clear due to all the precautions that encompass such issues, but everything indicates that the dismissals occurred due to the spying allegations – however, these were carried out at a late time, indicating a long delay in acting against the internal sabotage.

In fact, espionage against European private companies is absolutely harmful to the interests of these nations, being an activity as dangerous as the espionage of official government agencies – which has also been occurring frequently. The authorities that were supposed to guarantee the security of Danish companies helped to undermine the country’s interests as they were ineffective in combating data theft schemes and enabled, among other things, commercial advantages for Washington in negotiations that prioritized the Danish private market. Still, it is necessary to take into account that during the leak of confidential information by anonymous informants it is very common that only a portion of the real information is revealed, exposing an “outer layer” of the content, but preserving the silence about more compromising data. This leads us to speculate to what extent American espionage is actually at work in Europe – certainly, the information contained in the anonymous informant’s report is only a small part of what is actually known on the subject.

The case has already begun to generate outrage in neighboring countries. Norwegian lawmaker Freddy Ovstegard said he believes Norway is also being spied on by the US, considering that this is a common practice of Washington with its own allied countries. The tendency is for these reactions to spread more and more and for a wave of aversion to Washington and its surveillance and espionage policies to grow across the European continent. A possible scenario is the gradual separation between the US and the EU, considering that the issue directly affects the interests of multibillionaire private companies, going far beyond the relations between states. If such companies fail to cooperate with the governments of their own countries and start selling military equipment to enemy nations, the result will be absolutely catastrophic – Europeans will certainly try to avoid this.


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This article was originally published on InfoBrics.

Lucas Leiroz is a research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

Featured image is from InfoBrics

To move on from Trump, America must rebuild its capacity to care for its people
  1. Associate Professor of History and Chair, History and Classical Studies, McGill University

Donald Trump lost. Period.

Yet he still won strong majorities in the South and Mountain West while dominating once more with white evangelicals. As in 2016, he cleaned up in places like southwestern Pennsylvania, where factory jobs are long gone, and in upscale zip codes like St. Johns County in Florida, where you can play 18 holes and then sip martinis on the beach.

But the most striking part of Trump’s showing was his strength in places where the pandemic is raging. According to an analysis by National Public Radio, nearly seven in 10 counties with high COVID-19 death rates backed Trump more strongly this year than they did in 2016.

Those votes speaks volumes about what Americans have come to expect — or not to expect — from their government.

‘Salus Populi’

The government’s responsibility for public safety and well-being — Salus Populi, in its original Latin — is among the most venerable ideas of the western political tradition. America is no exception.

Most of the state-level constitutions written during the American Revolution described the “happiness and safety” of the people, no less than their freedom, as the governments’ primary concern. The Federal Constitution of 1787 also named “general welfare” as one of its main goals. And why not? The very word, republic, means the “public thing.”

Throughout the 19th century, courts and legislatures cited Salus Populi as the supreme law of the land, something that overruled the private interests of the greedy or careless. As a Massachusetts judge summarized while defending regulations on food markets in the 1840s, the public had “a right to control [those markets], as best to promote the welfare of all citizens.”

These weren’t just words. City ordinances actually prevented merchants from selling spoiled meat. Town governments repeatedly enforced quarantines. Judges routinely ordered the destruction of buildings that contained flammable materials.

To be sure, 19th-century America also had a libertarian streak. Amid the social upheavals of industrialization and urbanization, various anti-government and hyper-individualistic ideas grew into predatory ideologies such as social Darwinism.

By the early 20th century, however, the federal government had assumed responsibility for basic hygiene in the nation’s food and water supplies. During the New Deal in the 1930s, the government devised Social Security for retirees and invested in everything from highways and bridges to hospitals.

Governments of all levels fought the polio outbreaks of the early post-war years, and both public and private donors enabled Jonas Salk’s wondrous polio vaccine in 1955.

The private revolution

Everything changed in the U.S. with the election of Ronald Reagan as president in 1980.

“The nine most terrifying words in the English language,” the affable Reagan chortled, “are: I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.” In his America, the only role for government was to punish evildoers and promote dog-eat-dog capitalism in the name of “freedom.”

The Gipper, as Reagan was nicknamed (after a movie role), delivered these right-wing economic dogmas with a B-actor’s smile, initiating a 40-year assault on Salus Populi.

The U.S. politics of care changed under Ronald Reagan shown here on Nov. 3, 1980, with former president Gerald Ford and his running mate, George H.W. Bush in Peoria, Ill. (AP Photo)

This has worked out very well for the wealthy. High net-worth individuals saw their income taxes plummet under Reagan and again under George W. Bush. They reinvested the windfall in capital markets liberalized by Bill Clinton. Especially since the Great Recession of 2008, the super wealthy have pulled away from everyone else, with the richest five per cent of U.S. families increasing their net worth by an astonishing 88 per cent.

No wonder people making over $100,000 swung strongly two weeks ago to Trump, a shady billionaire who nonetheless delivered another tax cut in 2017. The puzzle is why so many working people seem to support an economic project that often harms working people.

Perhaps the question presupposes a level of choice that most people don’t have. In a world of closing factories and shrinking unions, employees are in no position to demand better job security. Flooded by well-crafted slogans about the evils of government, voters have little hope for competent leaders, to say nothing of caring ones.

Indeed, the most obvious choice within the privatized hellscape of contemporary America is to hang on to what you’ve got, the public be damned.

Fellow citizens

If no one will help you in times of need, why vote for someone who pretends otherwise? If everyone is out for himself, why not admire a snake-oil tycoon like Donald Trump? In Trump’s America, the deaths of so many fellow citizens simply “is what it is.”

The only way to fight these dismal convictions is to create tangible evidence to the contrary. Building more hospitals would be a good place to start. More than 150 of these have closed in rural areas of the U.S. since 2015.

Strengthening Social Security and the Affordable Care Act should also be priorities. Mandating better nutritional content for school cafeterias and enforcing fair labour practices would also work.

Act first, talk later. Then perhaps Americans like me can once again see each other as part of a civil and coherent society, as proud members of a decent and well-run republic.

Forget Huawei, US spying on Denmark shows the real threat for European countries comes from Washington

Tom Fowdy
Forget Huawei, US spying on Denmark shows the real threat for European countries comes from Washington
Revelations that America engaged in surveillance on Denmark should come as no surprise. It has consistently spied on its allies, and its efforts to vilify Huawei are simply an attempt to create a smokescreen.

Denmark’s public broadcaster DK has revealed, citing anonymous sources, that the US National Security Agency (NSA) cooperated with the country’s intelligence services in spying on the Danish ministries of finance and foreign affairs.

The purpose was to gather information on Denmark’s fighter jet acquisition program, with Washington aiming to secure Copenhagen’s procurement of Lockheed Martin F-35s at the expense of European defense firms.

The story, while covered in Denmark and the Netherlands, was largely ignored in the English-speaking international media. The espionage scandal comes at a time when Washington is aggressively pushing the idea of a “clean network”, demanding that European countries exclude the Chinese firm Huawei from their telecommunications networks amid allegations that it is an “espionage risk.”

However, that isn’t what is happening here. The “clean network” isn’t really clean at all, and the threat to European countries lies far closer to home than Beijing. The US has a long, well-established history of utilizing its intelligence agreements to spy on European countries for commercial reasons, not least when it comes to the bidding of the ‘military-industrial complex.’ Yet, instead of being concerned about this, the public and media have lost themselves in hysteria about a single company, Huawei, whose alleged complicity in espionage has never been proven.

What is the military-industrial complex? The term refers to an oligarchy of American multinational aerospace and defense contractors which constitute the backbone of the US military, such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Raytheon, to name a few. These companies exert a disproportionate influence over American politics in order to uphold their enormous profit margins.

They employ a number of strategies to do so, which include the funding of think tanks that actively promote aggressive and military-led foreign policies, such as the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). But more alarmingly their representatives and lobbyists are immersed within the Washington DC system itself. Take for example Nikki Haley, who was until recently a member of Boeing’s executive board. What does she know about aerospace engineering? Nothing. What does she know about promoting war and neo-conservative policies? Plenty.

Yet this isn’t all. What this revelation in Denmark reminds us is that the military-industrial complex also coordinates with US intelligence to promote their interests, even undermining competitors within allied countries.

For example, in 1994 it is publicly documented that the US Echelon program undermined a deal between the European firm Airbus and Saudi Arabia in order to secure a $6 billion contract for Boeing. Likewise, it was revealed several years ago that the NSA had spied on Germany’s Chancellery for decades. What has happened in Denmark is not new, it’s part of a trend.

Despite the US spying on European countries with a view to promoting military-industrial complex interests, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s backing for the “clean network” comes with claims that the scheme promotes privacy and data security by excluding “untrusted vendors.” But it’s obvious that such a network does not exist because the US is able to infiltrate it at will; it is a disingenuous façade.

The real reason the US seeks to exclude Huawei is not on legitimate security grounds, but to uphold its strategic monopoly over the global internet and network surveillance. Whether Huawei spies or not – and nothing has ever proved it does –  it is nonetheless a company which is not under the political control of the US and its intelligence partners, which makes its networks harder to infiltrate and subvert.

The US hasn’t aggressively promoted its anti-Huawei campaign because it cares and acts in good faith. It has done so because there is an obvious set of interests which the rise of the Chinese company challenges, and Huawei’s growing influence also brushes against the military-industrial complex as well as America’s various internet surveillance efforts, such as Prism.

Thus, the message should be this: forget China, the US is the biggest, most advanced and most unrivaled advocate of global surveillance in the world, much of it publicly documented and verified. Not only does America frequently spy on countries it claims to be its allies, but it also seeks to undermine their commercial interests to ensure the global monopoly and profit margins of the military-industrial complex are sustained.

Therefore, what is described as “the clean network” is little more than hypocrisy from Pompeo, a packaged lie designed to sustain a status quo which favors Washington, and which a Chinese telecommunications firm poses a threat to.