The former head of Denmark's foreign intelligence agency, Lars Findsen, has been charged alongside the ex-defense minister
Former Danish foreign intelligence chief Lars Findsen and ex-Defense Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen have spoken for the first time about the criminal case opened against them by Danish prosecutors. Both of the former officials were arrested last year on charges of state treason.
In an interview with The Guardian published on Monday, the two former officials insisted they were innocent. Findsen described the charges against him as "completely insane," while Frederiksen claimed the case was a "hoax" and suggested it was politically motivated.
Prosecutors have accused the former senior officials of leaking classified government secrets. Findsen is set to stand trial this autumn for allegedly disclosing state secrets to several people, including journalists, his girlfriend, and close relatives such as his 84-year-old mother.
The prosecution has based its allegations on a series of conversations Findsen had that were recorded on listening devices hidden in his home. The former spy chief told The Guardian that he had been stunned to learn that spies from Denmark's domestic intelligence agency had tapped his phone and wired his house as if he were a suspected terrorist or enemy foreign agent.
"That was the shocking thing," he told the outlet. "To sit and look at your life transformed into police reports written from surveillance tapes." Findsen noted that the recordings included his conversations with his children when they came back from school, and other aspects of his daily family life.
Former defense chief Frederiksen was arrested for allegedly disclosing classified information in a series of media appearances. The ex-minister denied revealing any secrets and stressed that the information he had shared was already in the public domain. He also accused the current Danish government of believing that an open secret can still be considered a state secret.
The information allegedly leaked by the two former officials relates to a scandal that unfolded in Denmark several years ago, when a whistleblower revealed that the country's Defense Intelligence Service (FE), which was headed by Findsen, had illegally spied on Danish citizens and foreign officials such as ex-German Chancellor Angela Merkel on orders from the US National Security Agency (NSA).
The NSA's ties to Danish intelligence had previously been suggested by whistleblower Edward Snoweden, who leaked a trove of classified documents in 2013 after working as a private contractor for the American spy agency. Copenhagen's role in the spy scheme, however, was only confirmed after an internal Danish intelligence report was shared with the media.