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How the US tried to render Edward Snowden – with Denmark’s cooperation

Denmark has confirmed that it allowed its airspace to be used for a US government jet, previously implicated in expedition operations, which was intended for Edward Snowden.

The US operation was first revealed in June 2014 when Duncan Campbell wrote that a private Gulfstream jet with tail number N977GA had taken off from an airport near Washington, on an unconventional flight path, on the same evening Edward Snowden arrived in Moscow. On arrival at Sheremetyevo Airport, Snowden found that his passport had been cancelled by the US Government, which resulted in his being forced to stay in the airport for 40 days until he was granted asylum in Russia.

N977GA, which had a history of being used in US rendition operations, was reported to have landed in Copenhagen awaiting the result of negotiations between the White House and the Kremlin. Now the results of a Danish freedom of information request, published in January 2016, have essentially confirmed Campbell’s report.

Danish news outlet denfri.dk requested a range of documents, many of which were denied on the basis of their release being damaging to Denmark’s relationship with the United States. Those that were released were heavily redacted but do confirm that Danish state authorities granted overflying and landing permission for a “USA state flight”, which landed at Kastrup Airport near Copenhagen.

Despite the publication of the documents, Danish officials refused to comment on the affair until 5 February, when Justice Minister Søren Pind confirmed to the Legal Affairs Committee of the Danish Parliament in a written answer that Denmark had granted permission for the flight while being perfectly aware of its purpose, telling the committee:

“The purpose of the plane’s presence at Copenhagen Airport was apparently to have the ability to transport Edward Snowden to the USA in case he was delivered from Russia or another country.”