Question for Denmark: Why could the US allegedly eavesdrop?

Question for Denmark: Why could the US allegedly eavesdrop?
German Chancellor Angela Merkel among other top politicians in Europe was spied on by the US from 2012 to 2014 with the help of Danish intelligence, Danish and European media reported Sunday. (AFP)
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Updated 31 May 2021

Question for Denmark: Why could the US allegedly eavesdrop?

Question for Denmark: Why could the US allegedly eavesdrop?
  • Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hulqvist said it was “unacceptable to eavesdrop on allies”
  • Danish lawmaker Karsten Hoenge said Monday he would quiz the Scandinavian country's defense and justice ministers in parliament about the case

COPENHAGEN: Several European nations want Denmark to explain why its foreign secret service allegedly helped the US spy on European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, over seven years ago.
“We want the cards on the table,” said Swedish Defense Minister Peter Hulqvist, adding it was “unacceptable to eavesdrop on allies.”
Danish lawmaker Karsten Hoenge of the left-leaning Socialist People’s Party, which is supporting Denmark’s Social Democratic government, said Monday that he would quiz the Scandinavian country’s defense and justice ministers in parliament about the case.
“The government must explain how come Denmark has been acting as a willing tool for a US intelligence service, and what it will mean for cooperation with Denmark’s neighboring countries,” he said.
The Danish broadcaster DR said Sunday that the Danish Defense Intelligence Service, known in Denmark by its acronym FE, in 2014 conducted an internal investigation into whether the US National Security Agency had used its cooperation with the Danes to spy against Denmark and neigboring countries.
The probe concluded that NSA had eavesdropped on political leaders and officials in Germany, France, Sweden and Norway.
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg said it was “unacceptable if countries that have close allied cooperation should feel the need to spy on each other or obtain information about them.”
Spying on others “creates more mistrust than it creates collaboration. So, it’s not a smart investment for the United States,” she told the Norwegian broadcaster NRK.
According to DR, the alleged set-up between the United States and Denmark was codenamed “Operation Dunhammer.” It reportedly allowed the NSA to obtain data by using the telephone numbers of politicians as search parameters.
DR said its report was based on interviews with nine unnamed sources, all of whom were said to have had access to classified information held by the FE. The military agency allegedly helped the NSA from 2012 to 2014.
“If the news is correct (...) this is not acceptable between allies, very clearly,” said French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country was also allegedly targeted by US intelligence.
“I’m attached to the relation of trust” between Europe and the United States, he told reporters. “There’s no room between us for suspicion.”
Macron urged for the US to make “full clarity” on the “past facts,” but also on “current practices.”
Speaking at the same virtual news conference after bilateral talks Monday between Paris and Berlin, Merkel said the issue of NSA eavesdropping had already been discussed previously with the United States, and Germany had made clear at the time its position that “spying among friends” wasn’t acceptable.
“What was true then is true today as well,” she said.
“I’m reassured that Denmark, the Danish government and the defense minister have said very clearly what they think of these matters,” Merkel added. “As such, I see a good basis, aside from clearing up this matter, to also achieve truly trustful relations.”
Reports in 2013 that the NSA listened in on German government phones, including Merkel’s, prompted a diplomatic spat between Berlin and Washington that soured otherwise good relations with President Barack Obama’s administration.
Still, there were also reports that Germany’s own BND intelligence agency may have helped the US spy on European companies and officials.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who revealed details of the secret US eavesdropping programs in 2013, reacted to the DR report with a sarcastic tweet in Danish: “Oh, why didn’t anyone warn us?“
In a written comment to DR, Danish Defense Minister Trine Bramsen said the government cannot discuss intelligence matters.
She added the present government has “the same point of view ” as the former Social Democratic government led by Helle Thorning-Schmidt who was in power during that period: “the systematic wiretapping of close allies is unacceptable.”
In August, Bramsen relieved the head of the country’s foreign intelligence service, among others, after an independent watchdog heavily criticized the spy agency for deliberately withholding information and violating Danish laws.
Denmark has two intelligence agencies, the Danish Defense Intelligence Service, which is also responsible for military intelligence, and the domestic Danish Security and Intelligence Service, known by its Danish acronym PET.


UK drafting plan to detain male migrants found at sea

UK drafting plan to detain male migrants found at sea
Updated 11 sec ago

UK drafting plan to detain male migrants found at sea

UK drafting plan to detain male migrants found at sea
  • Strategy aims to bypass international laws safeguarding asylum seekers
  •  Official: Ministers ‘absolutely convinced that tough deterrents are the way’

LONDON: Male migrants who try to cross the English Channel will be detained under a new UK government proposal, The Times reported on Saturday.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tasked Home Secretary Priti Patel with drawing up new plans in the latest effort to deter Channel migrant crossings.
Under the plan, male migrants would be housed in immigration detention centers after being intercepted at sea or discovered on UK territory.
Government officials believe that the plan will deter migrants from making the hazardous journey across the Channel. 

Last year, a record 28,381 people successfully made the trip, many in small dinghies. That figure could double this year, according to government statistics.
Patel and the French government have claimed that about 70 percent of all migrants who cross the Channel are single men aged under 40.
Due to international laws, migrants who are intercepted in the Channel cannot be lawfully detained, as opposed to those who reach Britain, who are often temporarily housed in hotels.
Most migrants who cross the Channel are doing so lawfully because they are intercepted before reaching the UK coast. Only a fraction land on beaches, which is illegal under British law.
But the new government plans look to enable UK authorities to detain and subsequently deport or imprison migrants intercepted at sea.

Individuals will face a maximum prison sentence of four years under the new law. A government source said: “We’re working through what powers of detention are needed.”
Another official said: “Ministers are convinced this is the way to create a deterrent. Their thinking is ‘you make it worse and worse, more draconian and it’ll stop people coming.’ They’re absolutely convinced that tough deterrents are the way to fix it.”
The plan is part of a wider strategy to use the Royal Navy, as well as a relocation policy to third countries, in order to combat Channel crossings.
However, MPs from Johnson’s Conservative Party have questioned the new proposal. Senior MP Tim Loughton said: “The fear is that it’s substituting the current accommodation bill of a Holiday Inn with the higher bill of a prison facility or a secure facility.”
There are also concerns that detained migrants could claim other rights under the Human Rights Act and the UN Refugee Convention, making it difficult for the government to execute its strategy.
But Patel’s plan aims to classify migrants who enter the UK illegally, or who arrive through a “safe” third country — including France — as “inadmissible.” 


Ethiopia army planning to ‘eliminate’ Tigrayan forces, military official says

Ethiopia army planning to ‘eliminate’ Tigrayan forces, military official says
Updated 22 January 2022

Ethiopia army planning to ‘eliminate’ Tigrayan forces, military official says

Ethiopia army planning to ‘eliminate’ Tigrayan forces, military official says
  • The conflict, which broke out in November 2020, has displaced millions and triggered widespread hunger

ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia’s military is planning to enter the Tigray regional capital of Mekelle and “eliminate” rebellious forces, a top military official said late on Friday amid diplomatic efforts to end conflict in the country’s north.
The Horn of Africa country has been gripped by war for more than a year, with the federal military and its allies battling forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the political party that controls Tigray.
This week two top US diplomats flew into Addis Ababa to push for a cease-fire, building on tentative signs of a thaw in relations between warring parties, including the release of political prisoners.
In an interview with state-affiliated media outlet Fana broadcast late on Friday, Ethiopian Defense Forces (EDF) deputy army chief, General Abebaw Tadesse said the country would not be at peace until the TPLF was eliminated.
“Tigray is part of Ethiopia and no force will stop us from entering. We will enter and we will eliminate the enemy. There shouldn’t be any confusion about this,” he said.
“The people of Ethiopia shouldn’t think that it is over, it is not over. The main thing here is we have stopped because we have to prepare ourselves. This enemy is still there, and it has to be absolutely eliminated. We will not negotiate with them.”
The TPLF’s spokesman, Getachew Reda, could not be reached for a comment on the military official’s remarks.
Ethiopian government spokesperson Legesse Tulu and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s spokesperson, Billene Seyoum, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The TPLF says Abiy wants to end the country’s ethnically-based federal government system while Abiy says the TPLF is hungry to seize the national power it once held.
For months there has been an uneasy stalemate between the two sides, punctuated by sporadic fighting. TPLF forces control most of Tigray but are surrounded by hostile forces from neighboring regions of Afar and Amhara which are allied with the federal military.
The conflict, which broke out in November 2020, has displaced millions and triggered widespread hunger.
In recent months there have been multiple diplomatic and political efforts to end it, including pressure from the United States pushing for rapprochement between the two sides.


Taliban say Oslo talks with West will ‘transform atmosphere of war’

Taliban say Oslo talks with West will ‘transform atmosphere of war’
Updated 22 January 2022

Taliban say Oslo talks with West will ‘transform atmosphere of war’

Taliban say Oslo talks with West will ‘transform atmosphere of war’
  • Talks between the Taliban and Western officials will open in Oslo on Sunday on human rights and humanitarian aid as a poverty crisis deepens

KABUL: The Taliban’s first official talks with the West on European soil since seizing power in Afghanistan will help to “transform the atmosphere of war” after a two-decade insurgency against NATO forces, the group’s top spokesman told AFP Saturday.
The hard-line Islamists stormed back to power in August as US and foreign troops began their final withdrawal from the country following a stalemate on the battlefield.
No country has yet recognized the Taliban’s government — notorious for human rights abuses during a first stint in power between 1996 and 2001 when they were ousted by a US-led invasion.
“The Islamic Emirate has taken steps for meeting the demands of the Western world and we hope to strengthen our relations through diplomacy with all the countries, including European countries and the West in general,” Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP on Saturday.
The Taliban want to “transform the atmosphere of war... into a peaceful situation.”
Talks between the Taliban and Western officials will open in Oslo on Sunday on human rights and humanitarian aid as a poverty crisis deepens.
The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated drastically since the Taliban’s takeover. International aid came to a sudden halt and the United States has frozen $9.5 billion (8.4 billion euros) in Afghan central bank assets held overseas.
Hunger now threatens 23 million Afghans, or 55 percent of the population, according to the United Nations, which says it needs $5 billion from donor countries this year to address the humanitarian crisis in the country.
The visit from Sunday to Tuesday will see meetings between the hard-line Islamists, Norwegian authorities and officials from a number of allied countries including Britain, the European Union, France, Germany, Italy and the United States, the Norwegian foreign ministry statement said.
The Taliban delegation is also expected to meet Afghans from civil society, including women leaders and journalists, at a time when the freedoms of those living in Afghanistan are being increasingly curtailed.
“These meetings do not represent a legitimization or recognition of the Taliban” Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said Friday.
“But we must talk to the de facto authorities in the country. We cannot allow the political situation to lead to an even worse humanitarian disaster.”
The Taliban delegation, led by foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, was due to leave for Oslo on Saturday.
Ali Maisam Nazary, the foreign relations chief for the National Resistance Front (NRF) — an opposition group that bills itself as the last bastion against total Taliban control — condemned Norway over the talks.
“We all must raise our voices and prevent any country from normalizing a terrorist group as the representative of Afghanistan,” Nazary, who is based in Paris, tweeted on Friday.


Sudan deputy leader on rare visit to Ethiopia

Sudan deputy leader on rare visit to Ethiopia
Updated 22 January 2022

Sudan deputy leader on rare visit to Ethiopia

Sudan deputy leader on rare visit to Ethiopia
  • There have been sporadic deadly clashes between the two sides in recent years

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s second most powerful leader was heading to Ethiopia on Saturday, a rare visit by an official from Khartoum that comes amid border tensions, state media said.
Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, widely known as Hemeti, who is number two in Sudan’s ruling council, will be in Ethiopia on a two-day official visit to meet “several Ethiopian officials,” the SUNA news agency reported.
Daglo is head of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a much feared and powerful paramilitary unit that is accused of atrocities in the western region of Darfur.
Relations between Khartoum and Addis Ababa deteriorated due to a territorial conflict over the disputed Al-Fashaqa border region, where Ethiopian farmers cultivate fertile land claimed by Sudan.
There have been sporadic deadly clashes between the two sides in recent years.
Al-Fashaqa also borders Ethiopia’s troubled Tigray region, and tens of thousands of Ethiopian refugees have crossed into Sudan fleeing fighting.
In November, Sudan’s armed forces said six soldiers were killed in an attack by armed groups and militias linked to the Ethiopian military, a report denied by Addis Ababa, who blamed rebels from Tigray.
Sudan, along with Egypt, is also locked in a bitter dispute over Ethiopia’s mega-dam on the Blue Nile.
The two downstream countries, dependent on the river for most of their water, see Ethiopia’s Renaissance Dam as an existential threat.
Both Khartoum and Addis Ababa are mired in crises.
Sudan has been rocked by weeks of mass demonstrations since an October 25 military takeover that derailed the country’s fragile transition to civilian rule, with at least 73 anti-coup protesters killed in a bloody crackdown.
Ethiopia still seeks to end a conflict that broke out in November 2020 following months of mounting rancour between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and the former ruling party of the northernmost Tigray region, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
The fighting has displaced millions, and, according to UN estimates, driven hundreds of thousands to the brink of starvation.


Former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad in stable condition in hospital

Former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad in stable condition in hospital
Updated 22 January 2022

Former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad in stable condition in hospital

Former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad in stable condition in hospital
  • The 96-year-old has been receiving treatment at the National Heart Institute in Kuala Lumpur for the past two days

KUALA LUMPUR: Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad is in a stable condition after being admitted to a specialist heart hospital for the third time in just weeks, his daughter said Saturday.

The 96-year-old has been receiving treatment at the National Heart Institute in Kuala Lumpur for the past two days, Marina Mahathir said.

Media descended on the hospital as news spread that Mahathir had been admitted again, and current Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob also paid him a visit.

In a statement, his daughter said he was receiving follow-up treatment after a procedure at the same facility about a fortnight ago.

“His condition is now stable and he has been responding well to treatment,” she said.

His family “requests that people pray for him to make a full recovery,” she added.

Mahathir also spent several days at the hospital in December for a check-up.

He has had numerous heart problems over the years, suffering several heart attacks and undergoing bypass surgery.

Mahathir is one of Malaysia’s most dominant political figures, having served twice as prime minister for a total of 24 years.

He was leader from 1981 to 2003, then returned to power in 2018 at the age of 92, heading a reformist coalition in the wake of the huge 1MDB corruption scandal.

But that administration collapsed in 2020 due to infighting.