Did US F-35 Jets Outmaneuver SAAB Gripens & Eurofighter Typhoons To Win Lucrative Danish Aircraft Contract?

The US National Security Agency has allegedly misused the existing intelligence-sharing agreement between Denmark and the United States in order to influence the acquisition of fighter jets, Danish public broadcaster DR  claimed. 

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Citing highly confidential reports by a whistleblower in the Danish Defense Intelligence Service, or Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste (FE), DR reported that the NSA targeted Denmark’s Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and defense firm Terma.

That whistleblower apparently warned FE’s management about possible illegalities in the intelligence collaboration between Denmark and the US.

Another report by The War Zone said that the agreement between Denmark and the US allows NSA to tap fiber-optic communication cables passing through Denmark.

The NSA has access to data stored from the Danish communication cables in an FE data center, built with US assistance, at Sandagergård on the Danish island of Amager. The US spy agency has similar data-sharing agreements with Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan.

DR could not ascertain if the defense department has acted on the whistleblower’s reports or not. Professor Emeritus in Criminal Law at the University of Copenhagen Jørn Vestergaard told the public-service broadcaster that the Danish law does not allow any foreign intelligence service to spy on Denmark in the way that they gain insight into military information or politically sensitive information.

In the case of fighter jet acquisition, the NSA allegedly accessed databases for communications related to Eurofighter GmbH and Saab, which were offering their Typhoon and Gripen multi-role fighters for the Danish F-16 replacement program.

Typhoon, Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the F-35 were in the competition till the end, which was eventually won by US-made Lockheed Martin F-35 stealth fighter.

The NSA apparently wanted to gather information on the Danish defense company Terma in a “targeted search” in 2015 and 2017, DR claimed in its report.

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The DR report stated – a spy program called Xkeyscore was used to seek information on Terma. The system trawls through and analyzes global internet data and is able to obtain email correspondence, browser history, chat conversations, and call logs. The report said – search criteria had included individual email addresses and phone numbers of company employees.

It is not clear as yet what information NSA was looking for or how the US intelligence service may have used the information about the fighter companies.

The whistleblower’s reports also warn of NSA targeting a number of Denmark’s “closest neighbors,” including France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden and that some of the espionage conducted by the NSA was judged to be “against Danish interests and goals”.

On the other hand, there is no proof that the government’s decision to procure the F-35 under the $3.1-billion deal was influenced in any way but Denmark’s national audit agency has identified serious shortcomings in the decision-making process and calculations used as the basis for selecting the aircraft.