History

From World War II over cold war to terrorism. From inspectorate to an independent intelligence and security service, from SIPO to PET. Get an insight into the history of PET here.

From SIPO to REA
Shortly before the start of World War II, the Danish police force was expanded to also include a security police department, SIPO. SIPO was set up as an inspectorate under the Danish National Commissioner - on an equal footing with two other inspectorates covering the uniformed police and CID, respectively.
The expansion of the police force was done according to Act No. 90 of 15 March 1939 which was an amendment of the Public Servants Act. According to this act, SIPO was given the task of “providing a shield against undertakings or actions that can be presumed to be aimed at the independence of the Realm and the legal social system as well carrying out an effective supervision of aliens and travellers”.
Initially, it was decided that SIPO was solely to cover Denmark outside the capital of Copenhagen. In Copenhagen, the tasks of SIPO were to be handled by Department D of the Copenhagen Police, which was established in 1927. Among the responsibilities of this department were weapons control, radio licence and protection duties during state visits.
In the years following World War II and the liberation of Denmark on 4 May 1945, it was decided on 7 May 1945 to establish the National Commissioner’s Intelligence Department, REA, which was to carry out the tasks that had previously been handled by SIPO. In November 1947, SIPO was closed down for good.

PET is established
On 1 January 1951, the intelligence-related activities of the Danish police were separated off. An independent office was established under the National Commissioner and given the name the Danish Security and Intelligence Service, PET. Acting Commissioner of Police Ernst Brix was appointed Director General of PET, and he reported to the Permanent Secretary of the Danish Ministry of Justice and, in special cases, to the Minister of Justice and the Prime Minister. At the same time, the police-related intelligence tasks were expanded.
PET was established with an HQ at the premises of the Copenhagen Police, from where its staff were to gather intelligence-related information from its contact persons in the police districts and from Department E (the former Department D) of the Copenhagen Police . Initially, the central department consisted of 27 criminal investigators and a number of administrative employees. The service was since moved to new offices at Police Station Bellahøj following a staff increase.

PET during the Cold War
In the beginning, PET aimed much of its focus at espionage and other intelligence-related activities carried out by the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc countries. On one hand, it was the assessment that the Cold War was fought through the use of  intelligence-related methods instead of weapons. On the other hand, there was still a fear that the Cold War could turn into a so-called “hot” war, meaning an actual military confrontation. This fear was so tangible that one of the measures taken was to build so-called secure facilities that were to house the government during emergency and war situations.
To PET and other intelligence services, intelligence work during the Cold War was synonymous with acquiring an insight into political affairs and this was inherently a sensitive matter. Erik Eriksen (the Danish Liberal Party), Danish Prime Minister from 1950 to 1953, therefore used the expression that the service was to do “as little as possible as effectively as possible”.

The supervision of PET
In 1964, a parliamentary control committee was established with the task of supervising e.g. the registrations carried out by the service. The chairman of the committee, County Governor A.M. Wamberg, also lent his name to the committee, the so-called Wamberg Committee.
Four years later, on 30 September 1968, the government at the time furthermore stated: “Today, the Government has decided that the registration of Danish citizens can no longer be made solely on grounds of legal political activities.
In 1998, the registration of individuals was one of the issues that were reopened by the PET Commission, which dealt with the intelligence-related activities of the police within the political area from 1945 to 1989. The report of the Commission was published in 2009.
In 1998, the Danish Ministry of Justice also appointed the so-called Wendler Pedersen Committee, which was headed by Supreme Court Judge Hugo Wendler Pedersen. The committee was given the task of reviewing the regulations governing the registration of individuals and organisations by PET and the Danish Defence Intelligence Service (DDIS).  Furthermore, the committee was to look into the underlying rules for PET and assess the need for a more unified regulation of PET’s activities.
In 2012, the committee presented its recommendations which led to the Act on the Danish Security and Intelligence Service (the PET Act) which came into force on 1 January 2014. The act defines the tasks of PET and, among other things, it stipulates when it is allowed to obtain and process information concerning physical and legal entities, when the information may be passed on, and when it is to be deleted. A new oversight board, which was to replace the Wamberg Committee, was established in connection with the PET Act. The board, which has been named the Danish Intelligence Oversight Board, is an independent body with its own secretariat.

Fore more information on the supervision of PET today, please see The Supervision of PET.
Fore more information on the PET Act, please see Legislation etc.

Terrorism and extremism
On 11 September 2001, al-Qaida carried out its terrorist attack against the World Trade Center which resulted in the collapse of the enormous towers right in front of the citizens of New York and TV viewers all over the world. Ever since, the fight against terrorism has been an international main priority. Early on, it was clear that the threat picture had changed - in Denmark as well - and PET now uses considerable resources to identify, prevent, investigate and counter the terror threat to Danish society. Apart from terrorism, the threats to Danish society are primarily posed by political extremism and espionage, and they are aimed at targets not only in Denmark but also against Danes and Danish interests abroad.
The changed threat picture in recent years has had the effect a substantial amount of resources has been allocated to PET, turning it into an organisation whose staff today consists of a complex group of people from a wide variety of professional areas who possess many different skills.
In 2003, PET moved to its current HQ in Buddinge north of Copenhagen.

PET Director Generals - past to present
Ernst Brix was the first Director General of PET from 1951 to 1957. Since then, the service has been headed by:

Mogens Jensen (1957-1964)
Arne Nielsen (1964-1970)
Jørgen Skat-Rørdam (1971-1975)
Ole Stig Andersen (1975-1984)
Henning Fode (1984-1988)
Anders Walsted Hansen (1988)
Hanne Bech Hansen (1988-1993)
Birgitte Stampe (1993-2002)
Lars Findsen (2002-2007)
Jakob Scharf (2007-2013)
Jens Madsen (2014-2015)
Finn Borch Andersen (since 2015)

Click here to learn more about Finn Borch Andersen.