Ex-Danish spy agency boss sued after alleged ‘sensitive’ info disclosure

Former head of Denmark's Security and Intelligence Service Jakob Scharf © Scanpix Denmark / Reuters
The former chief of the Danish Security and Intelligence Service is facing criminal charges over alleged secret information disclosures he made in an as-of-yet unpublished book. Attempts to ban it have led to criticisms of censorship.

PET has filed charges against its former boss Jakob Scharf over the book ‘Syv år for PET’ (Seven years with PET) by a journalist Morten Skjoldager. PET confirmed on Tuesday, that it has reported the former director and the journalist to the police, Denmark’s branch of The Local reported.

Scharf faces charges over alleged dissemination of sensitive information. It was revealed that Scharf had a non-disclosure agreement with PET, and had to seek approval before participating in any project possibly revealing information on his service. Scharf denied any allegations of disclosing confidential information.

“I can say that I would not have written it that way,” Scharf told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “I’m not passing on confidential information to people. I’m not doing it. And I wouldn’t think of doing it.”

PET’s allegations were based only on the publisher’s information on the book, since the agency was denied access to the manuscript. Publisher had written in the description, that Scharf “exposes PET operations, the known and the unknown, and portrays the service’s dedicated agents and the art of recruiting an informant”.

“PET has unsuccessfully requested the manuscript for the book, so PET could investigate whether it actually contains such confidential information. If that is not the case, PET has no wish to prevent the book’s publication,” The Local quoted the agency as saying.

Morten Skjoldager said that giving PET the manuscript would contradict the principles of free speech.

“I don’t believe it can be right that manuscripts, articles or other forms of journalism should be sent to PET or any other authorities for prior approval or censorship,” local media quotes Skjoldager as saying.

The agency, however, demanded the prohibition of the book, that was as due to be released on October 17. The Copenhagen City Court granted the injunction, while reportedly neither PET, nor the judges had read the book in question. PET reportedly finally received the book on Friday, after imposing the ban, and is “undertaking a close reading of the book to determine if it contains information that could endanger operations or people.”

The scandal around the book led to public outcry against censorship. Danish major newspaper Politiken vowed to defy the court ban and publish the controversial book anyway.

“This ban directly attacks the fundamental liberties on which our open society and free press depends,” the Local quoted Christian Jensen, editor-in-chief of Politiken, as saying. “If the PET, without concrete evidence, can exert control on books, or media articles, then this suggests we have effectively accepted an intelligence agency as an authority on publication, which would hamper the freedom of the press. There is another word for that: censorship.”

Books by former operatives of various security services commonly cause unrest among the operating agents and draw attention of the public as well as the authorities. One of the recent scandals of such kind occurred in June, when US ex-Secret Service agent Gary Byrne published a book 'Crisis of Character: A White House Secret Service Officer Discloses his Firsthand Experience with Hillary, Bill, and How They Operate.' The book exposing two-decades old dirty laundry rocked the US election campaign and promptly went to the top of best-seller lists.