The United States found itself embroiled in a major spy scandal. As many as five countries caught the Americans illegally spying on their citizens.
Nobody would think it was strange if we were talking about the citizens of Russia, China, Iran, Syria and Venezuela. With these five countries, everything is clear: U.S. officials constantly refer to them as those presenting threats to the national security. But this time the U.S. was caught by quite friendly countries of Northern Europe - Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden.
The scandal erupted earlier this month. On November 3, Norwegian television channel TV2 released a report which stated that over ten years, a group of Americans have been doing surveillance on 15 to 20 Norwegian subjects - mostly participants of various kinds of rallies. Potential terrorists and other undesirable persons were photographed, and the information was sent to Washington.
The report stated that the purpose of the surveillance was supposedly to prevent terrorist attacks against U.S. embassies. Nordic Governments were not informed of such actions.
The spokesman of the U.S. State Department, Philip Crowley, on November 11 said that the Norwegian authorities have been notified about a covert operation. "We are implementing the program throughout the world and are vigilant against people who can keep track of our embassies, as we understand that our diplomatic missions are a potential target," he explained.
However, the Scandinavians were not satisfied with this comment. A representative of the American embassy was called to the Norwegian Foreign Ministry for an explanation, but no clear answers were provided. It turns out that the surveillance was conducted without the knowledge of the Norwegian authorities.
If it was limited to Norway, this episode could have been considered an isolated case. Yet, after the Norwegians, Denmark spoke about the surveillance of its citizens. Local newspaper Politiken wrote that all American embassies have groups of employees leading external surveillance of suspicious persons in order to address threats to the U.S. security. It has been suggested that Denmark was hardly an exception.
Former head of the Danish security service PET Jorgen Bonniksen said that he had never heard of such groups: "If this is true, then we have to deal with illegal intelligence operations in Denmark. On Danish territory such operations can be conducted by PET, and PET only," he stressed.
The current head of PET, Jakob Scharf, made it clear: if illegal activity is determined, "of course, we will take action." Justice Minister of Denmark Lars Barfoeda has been summoned for an explanation to the Folketing (parliament). The U.S. Embassy in Copenhagen, as well as in Oslo, provided no clear comments.
Followed by Norwegians and Danes, Swedes brought up the illegal activities of American agents. According to the Minister of Justice of Sweden Beatrice Ask, people connected with the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm have been spying on people on the Swedish territory since 2000. The Minister stated that it "is not yet known whether in this case Swedish law was violated." She did not rule out that the objects of the surveillance actually might have been people who pose a threat to the U.S. security.
On his part, head of the local security police Anders Danielsson directly accused the U.S. of violating international norms. He said that the U.S. did not bother to inform the Swedish authorities of their intentions. "The Swedish security police (SÄPO) did not give the U.S. a permission to engage in activities that are contrary to Swedish law," he said.
Representatives of the U.S. embassy were quick to say that "they have nothing to hide" and that they have notified the Swedish authorities about their actions. However, Sweden is the third country which had been "made aware." Could the Scandinavian countries have entered into a conspiracy to defame the United States?
When we talk about three countries at once, it looks like a trend. Following its neighbors, Finland grew concerned as well. Local security police SUPO originally said it had not found anything illegal in the activities of the U.S. Embassy in Helsinki. However, they immediately proceeded to a more detailed verification. Apparently, the Finns also did not believe the assurances of the Americans.
Only the small Iceland with the population of 320 thousand with no army is lacking to complete the picture. On November 11 it was revealed that the islanders also have questions for the U.S. Local authorities immediately declared that they suspected members of the American Embassy in Reykjavik in espionage. The diplomatic mission is being verified.
This is a stunning picture. The U.S. did not even consider it necessary to inform its allies of its actions on their territory, as if they were colonies. In fact, Denmark, Iceland and Norway joined NATO and, consequently, they entered the circle of the closest allies of the U.S. Finland and Sweden are not members of the North Atlantic alliance, but are working with it very closely. That's how Americans value their allies.
However, Washington seems to have confused Scandinavians with Poland, Lithuania and Romania. These countries have repeatedly been suspected of placing secret CIA prisons on their territories. The authorities of these states have been blindly following in the footsteps of American politics in the past two decades. This is not true about rich countries of Northern Europe. Given the national pride of the Scandinavians, they are unlikely to forgive the Americans the dismissive attitude.
Denmark is the only country that followed the U.S. without asking questions. Sweden and Finland harshly condemned the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Norway was among the first to withdraw its troops from Iraq, as well as (unlike Americans) has signed an agreement with Russia on the delimitation of the Arctic shelf. Even little Iceland allowed itself to contradict the States when it refused to extradite the late chess player Robert Fisher, who was facing a jail term at home.
The explanation of the incident with the need to combat terrorism, of course, can be taken into account. Radical Islamists are making themselves visible in Denmark and Sweden, as well as Norway and Finland. Yet, the United States could have informed the local security forces of their suspicions as these countries also have qualified staff. And as for surveillance of Icelanders - it is simply ridiculous. They have fewer than a hundred of Muslims, let alone Islamists.
The author of numerous books on the work of intelligence Alexander Kolpakidi commented on the behavior of the U.S. agents in the Nordic countries for Pravda.ru.
"There is nothing surprising here. U.S. intelligence services have always behaved that way around the globe. Virtually all countries of the world, including the members of European Union and NATO, have secret CIA tracking stations. This is not the first scandal of this kind. For example, several years ago, the Greek police found one of these stations having mistaken it for a terrorist base. When the attack began, "terrorists" opened a furious fire, killing a police officer.
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