NSA spied on French heads of state for years

France summoned the U.S. ambassador Wednesday to respond to the revelations by WikiLeaks that the U.S. National Security Agency eavesdropped on three successive French presidents and other top officials. http://bigstory.ap.org/article/7b487071205543d9a96e60fe795a3bd0/french-president-calls-us-spying-revelations-unacceptable
The release of the spying revelations appeared to be timed to coincide with a final vote Wednesday in the French Parliament on a bill allowing broad new surveillance powers, in particular to counter terrorist threats.
French President Hollande, calling the U.S. spying an “unacceptable” security breach, convened two emergency meetings as a result of the disclosures about the NSA’s spying. The first was with France’s top security officials, the second with leading legislators, many of whom have already voted for the new surveillance measure.
French lawmakers emerging from that meeting said Hollande was to speak soon with U.S. President Barack Obama on the issue.
The documents appear to capture top French officials in Paris between 2006 and 2012 talking candidly about Greece’s economy, relations with Germany, and American spying on allies. While there were no huge surprises, the release of the documents late Tuesday angered and embarrassed French officialdom.
The top floor of the U.S. Embassy, visible from France’s presidential Elysee Palace, reportedly was filled with spying equipment hidden behind trompe l’oeil paintings of windows, according to the Liberation newspaper, which partnered with WikiLeaks and the website Mediapart on the documents.
U.S. Ambassador Jane Hartley was summoned to the French Foreign Ministry, according to government spokesman Stephane Le Foll. Hollande is also sending France’s top intelligence coordinator to the United States shortly, to ensure that promises made after earlier NSA spying revelations in 2013 and 2014 have been kept, the spokesman said.
Calling the spying “incomprehensible,” Le Foll told reporters “France does not listen in on its allies.”
But he added “we reminded all the ministers to be vigilant in their conversations.”
The U.S. Embassy had no immediate comment on the WikiLeaks revelations.
U.S. National Security Council spokesman Ned Price released a statement Tuesday evening saying the U.S. is “not targeting and will not target the communications of President Hollande.” Price did not address claims that the U.S. had previously eavesdropped on Hollande or his predecessors, Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac.
Two of the cables — dealing with then-President Sarkozy and Chirac, his predecessor — were marked “USA, AUS, CAN, GBR, NZL” suggesting that the material was meant to be shared with Britain, Canada and other members of the so-called “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance.
The disclosures, which emerged late Tuesday, mean that France has joined Germany on the list of U.S. allies targeted by the NSA.
“This involves unacceptable acts that have already given rise to discussions between the United States and France,” Hollande said in a statement after an emergency defense council meeting. The statement said France has reinforced protective measures, without elaborating.
There was no instant confirmation on the accuracy of the documents, which covered intercepts from 2006-12. WikiLeaks, however, has a track record of publishing intelligence and diplomatic material.
An aide to Sarkozy told The Associated Press that the former president considers these methods unacceptable. There was no immediate comment from Chirac.
France is among several U.S. allies that rely heavily on American spying powers when trying to prevent terrorist and other threats and the intelligence bill expected to pass Wednesday was intended to bolster French capabilities. The French government has repeatedly denied accusations that it wants NSA-style powers.
Le Foll, who was heading Wednesday to Washington on a previously scheduled trip, said it wasn’t a diplomatic rupture, riffing that France was sending not an aircraft carrier to the U.S. but a replica of the Hermione, the ship that carried General Marquis de Lafayette from France to America in 1780 to offer help in the Revolution.
But, he added, “when you see this between allied countries it’s inacceptable and, I would add, incomprehensible.”

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