Illegal spying on citizens by the Danish Defence Intelligence Service

Illegal spying on citizens by the Danish Defence Intelligence Service

On 24 August, Lars Findsen, the director of the Danish Defence Intelligence Service was suspended after the agency was accused of spying on Danish citizens over the past six years, and of passing on information about them. He could have played an active role in withholding information or even deliberately misinforming the supervisory agency.

In a question to the European Commission submitted on 26 August, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) Sophia In’t Veld, Morten Petersen and Karen Melchior of the Renew Europe Group, asked the European Commission if they “have EU legal instruments and arrangements for processing and sharing personal data been used to spy illegally on citizens?”

In a more pointed question the MEPs asked, “what will be the impact of such a scandal for law enforcement and security cooperation within the EU, including data sharing arrangements and interoperability, which relies completely on mutual trust and the assumption there are adequate safeguards and oversight in all Member States?”

In closing, the parliamentarians requested more information on whether the Commission would “investigate if the fundamental rights of EU citizens have been violated, and what new fundamental rights safeguards will the Commission propose in the context of the EU Security Strategy to protect citizens from abuses, such as illegal and arbitrary surveillance by national law enforcement and security agencies?”

On 06 November, Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson officially responded on behalf of the European Commission. She stated that “the Commission has no specific knowledge on the case referred to by the Honourable Members”.

The Commissioner explained that “under Article 4 of the Treaty on European Union, national security is, in principle, the sole responsibility of each Member State” and that “privacy, including the confidentiality of communications and data protection, are protected at European and national level”. She also added that “any interferences with such rights by law enforcement and security authorities have to comply with the principles of proportionality and necessity”.

The Commissioner further clarified that “in all cases, they have to respect Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights” and that “the monitoring and enforcement of applicable laws fall primarily within the competence of national authorities and courts”.

She also reported that “the Commission has no information that EU legal instruments have been used illegally by the Danish Defence Intelligence Service or by the other EU Member States”.

Finally, the Home Affairs Commissioner underlined that “EU legal acts on data exchange between the Member States in the field of law enforcement aim at a high level of data protection” and that “for acts created before the most recent EU data protection legislation, the Commission recently conducted an exercise identifying the steps to ensure alignment with this legislation”.

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