Denmark to charge former Defence Minister with leaking classified information

By | May 16, 2022

According to a press release on Thursday, May 12th from the Danish Ministry of Justice, the Danish Attorney General has recommended charging former Defence Minister, Claus Hjort Frederiksen, with “the unauthorized disclosure of highly classified information.” The Attorney General’s office has recommended that charges be brought under the rarely used section 109 of the Danish penal code. Section 109 states:

Any person who betrays or further notifies the state secret during operations, consultations or decisions in cases in which national security or rights in relation to foreign states based, or that relate to substantial socio­economic interests of payments, punishable by imprisonment up to 12 years.

Frederiksen served as Defence Minister from 2016 to 2019 and is currently a member of the Folketing, the Danish legislative body. This complicates any attempt to charge Frederiksen as section 57 of the Danish constitutionforbids the charging or imprisonment of a member of the Folketing. The Danish Ministry of Justice has referred the matter to the Folketing to decide if they wish to remove Frederiksen’s parliamentary immunity.

According to Fredericksen, in a statement on Facebook, “[f]rom my perspective, it is unimaginable that the members of the Parliament have to vote blindly,” referring to the Ministry of Justice’ refusal to elaborate further on the charges against Fredericksen. In response, the Ministry of Justice has stated, “These discussions will have to be carried out with respect for the special nature of the case, including the inclusion of highly classified information in the case.”

While the precise nature of the charges has yet to be made public, Fredricksen speculates that they are related to the May 2021 report from DR, a Danish news outlet, exposing Operation Dunhammer, an extended American National Security Agency (NSA) operation in partnership with the FE (the Danish intelligence ministry) that entailed spying on private communications of European officials, including Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. This came after an explosive press release by the Danish Intelligence service in August, 2020 alleging that the FE shared illegally obtained private information of Danish citizens with the NSA.

This charge is following the continued detainment of Lars Findsen, the former head of FE. According to DR, Lindsen is preliminarily charged (an informal pre-charge issued by the Danish Judiciary prior to a formal charge) with leaking the information in the report to DR, though no formal charges have been filed as of the publication of this piece.