Former Danish Intelligence Head Jailed, Accused of Leaking 'Highly Classified Information'

The former head of both of Denmark's intelligence agencies has been in jail for over a month for allegedly "disclosing highly classified information from the intelligence services," according to a Danish court.

Four suspects from the country's two intelligence agencies had been detained, but Findsen is the only one who remains in custody as he awaits trial. A court-ordered ban previously barred his name from being released in connection to the detainments, but the order was lifted Monday.

From 2002 to 2007, Findsen led the domestic security agency commonly known by its acronym PET. He followed up his time at PET by heading the foreign intelligence service known as FE from 2015 until August 2020, when he was suspended after an independent watchdog castigated the agency for purposefully withholding information and breaching Danish laws.

But details on exactly why Findsen was detained remain elusive. His defense lawyer cannot speak publicly because of the sensitivity of the case, and it is unclear whether his FE suspension has any connection to the arrest.

Some have speculated that authorities believed Findsen revealed too much to the media, possibly prompting the allegation that he disclosed "highly classified information from the intelligence services."

During a closed-door custody meeting in Copenhagen on Monday, which lengthened his detention until February 4, Findsen's defense lawyer criticized that his preliminary charge wasn't even known. Preliminary charges allow a suspect to be held during an ongoing investigation and are a step before formal charges.

"We do not understand the background for this secrecy," said Lars Kjeldsen, the lawyer.

Findsen also called for his preliminary charge to be revealed while talking to reporters in court Monday and said that he pleads "not guilty."

"This is completely insane," he said.

Former Danish Intelligence Head Jailed
The former head of Danish Defense Intelligence Service, Lars Findsen, speaks during the presentation of the annual report at Kastellet (The Citadel) in Copenhagen, Denmark, on December 19, 2017. Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP via Getty Images

Writing in the Politiken newspaper on Tuesday, the former operative head for PET questioned whether Findsen had done anything wrong.

Hans Joergen Bonnichsen described Findsen as "the person in Denmark, and probably also internationally, who has the deepest insight into the soul, means and methods of the intelligence service."

Bonnichsen said Findsen made "the largest turnaround process in PET's history. We created a modern organization with greater openness about the work of the service, with a website, annual report, meetings were held with the press and interviews were given.

"I find it infinitely difficult to see that such a profile has a motive for national harm, but let the process determine this," Bonnichsen wrote.

Opposition lawmakers expressed fears that the detention of a top intelligence official may harm the agencies' contacts with foreign partners.

"We need to be assured that we can trust that the cooperation with other countries is complete," Peter Skaarup, the populist Danish People's Party's legal affairs spokesman, told Danish broadcaster DR.

On the opposite end of the political spectrum, Eva Flyvholm, the defense and foreign affairs spokeswoman for the left-wing Unity List, said it wants the Social Democratic government to give lawmakers a briefing on the case.

Danish newspapers splashed Findsen's detention news across their fronts.

The Jyllands-Posten daily wrote in an editorial that "Denmark's security and credibility stand to become the big loser" no matter how the case ends and that it "undoubtedly must trigger the question: What is rotten in Denmark?"

"Either [Denmark] is in the process of destroying its own intelligence services by bringing an unfounded case against the FE boss, or Denmark has had a spy chief who has undermined the kingdom's security. Both are, to put it mildly, frightening and deeply harmful to Denmark," Politiken wrote.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.