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SMUGGLING

Suspected sub sighting sets Swedes on edge

The Swedish military is investigating what could be a sighting of a foreign submarine in the Swedish archipelago after a Stockholm resident snapped a photo of a lurking mass on the surface while walking her dog.

Suspected sub sighting sets Swedes on edge

Early in the morning in April Hanna Harge went to walk the family’s puppy when she suddenly saw something massive appear in the water outside the family’s seaside house.

“I saw this huge and odd object surface out of nowhere. Then over the next 15 minutes or so it passed by. It disappeared by the trees next to our boathouse. My first thought as that it had to be a submarine,” Harge told The Local.

She immediately ran inside to wake up her two teenage sons who hurried out to snap some photos. The pictures show what looks like a turret and the body of a submarine in the midst of the backwash of water.

The family thought it must be a Swedish navy exercise.

“My husband wanted to e-mail the military to say that residents of the area should be warned, so that no one would run into the submarine. But they answered that they had no information of any exercises in the area, “ said Harge.

The day after the family received a call and was later paid a visit by the Swedish Marine Intelligence service (Marintaktiska stabens underrättelsetjänst).

“They were here a couple of hours and questioned me and my oldest son. They reconstructed the whole event,“ said Harge.

When Harge asked the intelligence officers what they thought she might have seen they told her that it could simply be a question of floating cargo containers, according to Dagens Nyheter (DN).

But after comparing the photos with YouTube footage the family have their own theory.

“It is funny because Swedish submarines look nothing like this thing we caught on camera. But the box-like shape of the turret we saw looked very much like the Russian submarines we have since seen online,” Harge said.

They don’t think that it is likely to be a case of espionage.

“Spying by submarine just feels so ’80s’ somehow, one must assume they too have come further within that field, it just seems so dated. Instead we believe that it has to do with some sort of smuggling,” Harge said.

The family decided to take the picture to the Swedish media on the advice of a journalist friend of the family.

“But it felt right to wait for a while, as the intelligence officers that visited us were certainly treating this as a serious matter,“ she told The Local.

The Swedish military are reluctant to comment on what they think that the sighting was.

“We are examining the photographic evidence to see what it could be. But the investigation is by no means finished,“ said Marie Tisäter from the Swedish military information department to DN.

According to the Swedish military they will have finished the investigation within the next two months.

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ESPIONAGE

US ‘used Danish surveillance system’ to spy on Merkel and Nordic allies

The United States spied on top politicians in Europe, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, from 2012 to 2014 with the help of Danish data cables, Danish and European media reported on Sunday.

US 'used Danish surveillance system' to spy on Merkel and Nordic allies
German Chancellor Angela Merkel using her mobile phone in 2015. File photo: Odd Andersen/AFP/Ritzau Scanpix

Danish broadcaster DR said the US National Security Agency (NSA) had eavesdropped on Danish internet cables to spy on top politicians and high-ranking officials in Germany, Sweden, Norway and France.

The NSA had taken advantage of a surveillance collaboration with Denmark’s military intelligence unit FE to do so, it said.

Denmark’s defence ministry has not responded to AFP’s requests for a comment.

Defence Minister Trine Bramsen, who took over the defence portfolio in June 2019, was informed of the spying in August 2020, according to DR.

She told the broadcaster that “systematic eavesdropping of close allies is unacceptable.”

It was not clear whether Denmark authorised the US to use its surveillance system to spy on its neighbours.

The Norwegian and Swedish defence ministers last night demanded an explanation from the Danish government and former German opposition leader Peer Steinbrück called the issue a “scandal”.

The French government said in Monday that the reports alleging that the US spied on top politicians in Europe with the help of Danish intelligence are “extremely serious” if proven.

“It is extremely serious, we need to see if our partners in the EU, the Danes, have committed errors or faults in their cooperation with American services,” Europe Minister Clement Beaune told France Info radio.

He added it would also be very serious if it turned out Washington had been spying on EU leaders.

“Between allies, there must be trust, a minimal cooperation, so these potential facts are serious,” said the minister.

He said the facts must first “be verified” and then “conclusions drawn in terms of cooperation.”

“This is not something that should be played down,” Beaune said, while acknowledging that similar allegations had emerged back in 2013 that the United States had spied on Merkel.

“We are not in some kind of cuddly world so this kind of behaviour can unfortunately happen,” he said.

DR revealed the information following an investigation it led together with Swedish broadcaster SVT, Norway’s NRK, Germany’s NDR, WDR and Süddeutsche Zeitung, and France’s Le Monde.

German Chancellor Merkel, then-foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and then-opposition leader Steinbrück were among those the NSA had spied on, DR said.

The NSA was able to access SMS text messages, telephone calls, and internet traffic including searches, chats and messaging services, DR said.

The spying was detailed in a secret, internal FE working group report codenamed “Operation Dunhammer” and presented to FE top management in May 2015, DR said.

DR said its information came from nine different sources who had access to classified FE information, and said their revelations were independently confirmed by several sources.

Neither the FE nor its director at the time, Lars Findsen, commented immediately on the revelations.

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The US spying, if confirmed, was going on during and after the 2013 Snowden affair, which erupted when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed thousands of classified documents exposing the vast US surveillance put in place after the September 11th, 2001 attacks.

Among other things, that documents showed the US government was spying on its own citizens and carrying out widespread tapping worldwide, including of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone.

In November 2020, DR reported that the US had used the Danish cables to spy on Danish and European defence industries from 2012 to 2015.

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