Prime Minister slams secret surveillance rumours

“I demand respect for the function of the Grand Duke in this matter”

Photo: Marc Wilwert

(CS) Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker said he was worried about allegations put forward accusing the Grand Duke of ties to the British Secret Service.

“I demand respect for the function of the Grand Duke in this matter,” the Premier said, adding that it seemed ridiculous to accuse the Grand Duke of treason by collaborating with a foreign secret service.

Earlier this month a recording had surfaced of a conversation between Juncker and former head of the Luxembourg Secret Service (SREL) Marco Mille, in which Mille claimed that the Grand Duke had connections to the MI6.

The Grand Ducal household firmly denied these rumours and Juncker supported this statement at a press conference on Thursday.

Juncker clarifies speculation

It had also been claimed that an encrypted CD in the hands of the SREL contains a secret recording of a talk between the Grand Duke and Juncker. The Prime Minister said that he certainly did not spy on the Grand Duke or vice versa. However, he has said that he wants the CD to be cracked in order to ascertain whether a conversation was recorded by a third person, which could represent a serious security breach, or whether the allegation turns out to be false, in which case Juncker said he would like to know why it was put into circulation.

Additionally, the Premier explained the circumstances under which the Grand Ducal household had asked for surveillance tools, which were referenced in recent reports. Unlike the speculation that the Grand Duke wished to spy on staff or officials, the tools were used to investigate “serious threats” against the head of state in 2005.

In order to find out where these threats were coming from a recording device was installed by police at the Palais and Colmar Berg switchboards. These were removed several months later though, the Premier said, adding that this had not been a Secret Service but rather a police operation.

No systematic domestic espionage

Juncker also addressed several other questions which have been raised in light of the Secret Service scandal. However, he pointed out that the law did not allow for sensitive information, which could jeopardise the identity and security of sources, to be revealed.

The Premier said that he was firmly against systematic, domestic espionage, and that he has made this clear to past and present heads of the SREL. He added that he has never had reason to assume that such espionage was taking place and that if he had he would have taken appropriate action.

While it had been claimed that the SREL targeted members of the Green party for surveillance, Juncker said that all telephone tapping had to be signed off by the Premier, who said that he has “a strong sense for the right to privacy” and would not grant any surveillance activities which he deems unnecessary.

Luxembourg not a surveillance state

Additionally, Juncker clarified the statement that 300,000 files were being kept by the SREL, saying that the majority of these contained information by foreign secret services about dangerous individuals. He added that there were in fact only around 175,000 files with cross references and additional material such as microfilms making up the high number. “It is wrong to say there 300,000 documents on 300,000 Luxembourgers,” he added.

Juncker showed himself very concerned about the false information circulating, admitting that they would naturally raise suspicion. However, he said that there are “things that aren't known and that shouldn't be revealed,” adding that the SREL was not a tool of oppression in a surveillance state, but that “there are security threats that should be taken seriously.”