Spy versus….Everybody!

What do Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland have in common? If you answered, They are the five Nordic countries, you would be only half right. They are also the five countries that have most recently complained of being victims of the American CIA and its other espionage agencies.

Both Pravda and the Daily Mail currently report that each of these five countries, all hitherto friendly toward the United States, have exposed or voiced suspicions of CIA-type operations within their borders, many of them on-going for many years.

Norway was the first to complain, when news media in that country (TV2) released a story that groups and individuals identified as dangerous to the United States embassy had been monitored, generally at political rallies, for at least ten years and that the results had been transmitted back to Washington, all without the knowledge of the Norwegian government. This last the U.S. government insisted was not true: they had notified the government, they say. Norway promptly disagreed and summoned a representative from the American embassy for an explanation. In a follow-on report, TV2 revealed that former employees of the Norwegian Security Police and Defence Forces had been paid to gather intelligence on Norwegian individuals numbering in the hundreds.

Shortly thereafter, Sweden and Denmark weighed in. The Swedish Minister of Justice Beatrice Ask announced that individuals in her country had been targeted by U.S. embassy personnel, also for at least ten years. Ask claimed, diplomatically, that the Swedish government “had not been fully informed.” She went on to state that it was not yet clear whether Swedish law had been broken, that they were looking into it, and that she expected “U.S. authorities to cooperate” with the investigation. The head of the Swedish security police (SAPO), Anders Danielsson, went further and accused the United States of violating “international norms,” if not actual Swedish law.

American officials again insisted they had notified the national government and that they “had nothing to hide.” Reports in that country indicate that as many as 2000 Swedish residents were being spied on by American agents.

In Denmark, the newspaper Politiken reported that, in Denmark as well as just about everywhere else, United States embassies employ intelligence teams called Surveillance Detection Units (SDU) to spy on the local populace. The head of Danish counter intelligence agency PET, Jakob Scharf, was surprised, but promised an investigation.

Almost immediately, Finnish authorities announced that while they had no knowledge that SDUs were operating in their country, they would investigate.

Finally, Iceland’s ministry of justice announced that it too was directing the national police commissioner to investigate whether their own country had been spied upon.

Thus was completed the Nordic cycle. Our northern friends, even those in the absence (so far) of hard evidence, seem to believe that where the United States and its often paranoid security interests are concerned, anything is possible.

But why the focus on the Nordics? Denmark, Iceland, and Norway are NATO allies and, as such, should be about as close allies as the U.S. has. While Finland and Sweden are not in NATO, both countries do work with the alliance closely. Nevertheless, there has been considerable opposition within most of these countries to America’s adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that may account for part of America’s suspicions. Even Iceland, the smallest and weakest of the five, has in the past stood up to the United States when it felt honor bound, such as in the case of chess master Bobby Fischer. The Leviathan is slow to forget.


For its part, the United States seems to be using a couple of different responses (in addition to the old faithful “deny everything”). On the one hand, they claim that the governments of the countries involved were duly informed of what was underway. And, on the other hand, in a twist on the “everybody does it” defense, they say, But we do it everywhere. The Nordic nations should not complain; they are simply getting what the rest of the world gets. A United States State Department official, Philip Crowley, actually said, in response to the furor: “We are implementing the program throughout the world”¦.”

One can only conclude that that means the Nordic countries and the rest of the world had better get used to it.

The writer for Pravda, admittedly no friend of the United States, puts it this way, intriguingly if somewhat cryptically: “Why is America conducting subversive activities in foreign territories, including, apparently friendly countries? This is because in an era of the global crisis, the U.S. changed its strategy. If before it had adhered to the concept of the “golden billion” according to which the good life was allowed to a limited group of countries, mainly Western countries, ”¦ now it has changed the strategy to the “golden million,” which implies that the good life is the exclusive privilege of the U.S.”

He may have a point, though from where I sit, it looks to me that the U.S. government doesn’t want anyone to have “the good life,” unless it’s the ruling elite.