Why suspension of intelligence chief is a shock in pragmatic Denmark

The head of Denmark’s military intelligence service FE (Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste) has been suspended after being accused by a watchdog of a number of offences.

Why suspension of intelligence chief is a shock in pragmatic Denmark
FE chief Lars Findsen, whose suspension was announced on Monday August 24th. Photo: Ida Guldbæk Arentsen/Ritzau Scanpix

Lars Findsen, the head of FE, was suspended from service along with two colleagues until further notice after the agency was accused by a watchdog of a string of offences including violating data privacy laws, withholding information and misleading investigation of the organisation.

The suspension was initially announced by the ministry of defence in a brief press statement.

The ministry’s press office told broadcaster DR that it would not add “any more than what is said in the press statement”.

FE’s primary tasks are foreign intelligence, military security and national IT security. They are a not the same organisation as PET (Politiets Efterretningstjeneste), which is responsible for domestic intelligence and security in Denmark.

Earlier this month, the intelligence services' watchdog organisation TET (Tilsynet med Efterretningstjenesterne) confirmed that it was investigating FE, stating it was in possession of a “significant amount of material relating to FE”.

The watchdog told DR that, before it was established in 2014, FE launched operational activities that were in breach of Danish law, including obtaining and passing on a significant amount of information about Danish citizens.

TET also said that its investigation was launched on the basis of material provided by “one or more” whistleblowers.

A statement published by TET on its website on Monday accuses FE of withholding information; failing to follow up on signs of espionage within the ministry of defence; enabling an “inappropriate legality culture” by hiding potentially improper activity; and obtaining and passing on a significant amount of information about Danish citizens, in breach of Danish law.

It also accuses FE of “improper management of information regarding an employee of (TET)”, which has been interpreted as an accusation of FE espionage against TET.

The developing scandal has already been called “highly unusual” by commentators in Denmark.

“FE has been left somewhat groggy by this. It has lost its top manager and two other senior staff. This has the shape and form of something that can be a very big scandal,” DR legal correspondent Trine Maria Ilsøe said on Monday.

The strength of the watchdog’s criticism of one of Denmark’s intelligence services sets Monday’s developments out from past cases, she said.

“It's highly unusual. We know that FE has received criticism in previous reports, but it has always looked like something that could be worked on. But this time the watchdog is of a different opinion. They are virtually accusing them of lying,” she added.

The involvement of whistleblowers is one of the elements that makes the case stand out, Ilsøe said.

“The public should not expect to be told everything about this case, because TET has stressed it has (only) declassified some of its conclusions. That is to say, the information on which the conclusions are based is classified, but I certainly believe that more information will emerge than what we have at present,” she added.

READ ALSO: Danish ex-spy boss sentenced for revealing secrets

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Today in Norway: A roundup of the latest news on Monday 

Find out what’s going on in Norway on Monday with The Local’s short roundup of important news. 

Today in Norway: A roundup of the latest news on Monday 
Oslo Operahus. Photo by Arvid Malde on Unsplash

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On Monday, the government will issue guidelines on how exactly its Covid-19 certificate will be used domestically.

At 3pm, the government will hold a press conference where they will reveal more about how the Covid-19 certificates will work.

The certificate launched on Friday, but so far, the government have been sparing with details on how it will be used. 

READ MORE: Explained: How to access Norway’s Covid-19 certificate 

They have, however, revealed the certificate would be used for access to large events as well as tours and cruises within Norway. 

We will have all the details on how the certificate will be used covered in an article later today. 

Ministry of Defence: No signs of espionage 

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At the end of May, Danmarks Radio reported that the US used Danish data cables to spy on politicians across Europe. 

“These are serious allegations that the government takes very seriously. Based on what we know, it does not look like there has been activity (espionage) directed at Norwegian politicians,” Jensen said in a statement. 

READ MORE: Norway summons US embassy top official over spying claims 

“Systematic espionage is completely unacceptable. We are clear to the Danish and American authorities about this. We are also in active dialogue with Danish and American authorities and services about the information regarding this matter,” he added. 

One in ten Norwegians plan summer holiday abroad 

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According to the survey by employer organisation, Virke, the majority, 60 percent, said that their travel plans have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Fewer children are being adopted from abroad in Norway 

In 2020, 46 children were adopted from abroad in Norway, half the number of foreign adoptions compared to 2019.

According to new figures from Statistics Norway, the number of foreign children being adopted in Norway is also less than 10 percent of what it was in 1998 when 795 foreign adoptions were registered. 

A total of 243 adoptions were recorded in Norway last year, almost 100 less than the year before. 

One of the reasons fewer foreign children are being adopted is that countries that have previously released children for adoption abroad can now take care of these children themselves, according to Statistics Norway.

96 new coronavirus cases

On Sunday, 96 new cases of Covid-19 were registered in Norway, 89 fewer than the seven-day average of 185. 

Fewer cases tend to be registered on weekends and public holidays than on weekdays. 

The R-number or reproduction rate in Norway is currently 0.9. This means that every ten people that are infected will, on average, only infect another nine people, indicating that the infection level is declining.

Total number of Covid-19 cases in Norway. Source: NIPH