US Wiretapped French Presidents

US Wiretapped  French Presidents
US Wiretapped  French Presidents

The United States National Security Agency spied on French presidents Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande, WikiLeaks said in a press statement published on Tuesday, citing top secret intelligence reports and technical documents.

The revelations were first reported in French daily Liberation and on news website Mediapart, which said the NSA spied on the presidents during a period of at least 2006 until May 2012, the month Hollande took over from Sarkozy.

Hollande held a high-level emergency meeting on Wednesday following the revelations and called the spying an “unacceptable” security breach, Reuters reported.

WikiLeaks said the documents derived from directly targeted NSA surveillance of the communications of Hollande (2012–present), Sarkozy (2007–12) and Chirac (1995–2007), as well as French Cabinet ministers and the French ambassador to the US.

These latest revelations regarding spying among allied western countries come after it emerged that the NSA had spied on Germany and Germany’s own BND intelligence agency had cooperated with the NSA to spy on officials and companies elsewhere in Europe.

“The French people have a right to know that their elected government is subject to hostile surveillance from a supposed ally,” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said in the statement, adding that more “important revelations” would soon follow.

The documents include summaries of conversations between French government officials on the global financial crisis, the future of European Union, the relationship between Hollande’s administration and Merkel’s government, French efforts to determine the makeup of the executive staff of the United Nations, and a dispute between the French and US governments over US spying on France.

The documents also contained the cellphone numbers of numerous officials in the Elysee presidential palace including the direct cellphone of the president, WikiLeaks said.

 US Ambassador Summoned

US 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 US shortly, to ensure that promises made after earlier NSA spying revelations in 2013 and 2014 have been kept, Le Foll said.

He called the spying “incomprehensible and said “France does not listen in on its allies.”

At a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, Le Foll said, “We reminded all the ministers to be vigilant in their conversations.”

The US Embassy had no immediate comment on the WikiLeaks revelations.

US National Security Council spokesman Ned Price released a statement Tuesday evening saying the US is “not targeting and will not target the communications of President Hollande.”

Price did not address claims that the US had previously eavesdropped on Hollande or his predecessors.

 Spying Among Friends

Former NSA employee Edward Snowden caused an uproar in Germany after he revealed that Washington had carried out large-scale electronic espionage in Germany and claimed the NSA had bugged Merkel’s phone.

“While the German disclosures focused on the isolated fact that senior officials were targeted by US intelligence, WikiLeaks’ publication provides much greater insight into US spying on its allies,” WikiLeaks said in a statement.

This includes “the actual content of intelligence products deriving from the intercepts, showing how the US spies on the phone calls of French leaders and ministers for political, economic and diplomatic intelligence.”

WikiLeaks said NSA intercepts showed that Hollande called a secret meeting of his Cabinet about the potential consequences of a Greek exit from the eurozone as early as May 2012.

An earlier intercept from 2008 has Sarkozy, widely considered in France to be pro-American, being critical of the US government’s handling of the financial crisis.

“The president blamed many of the current economic problems on mistakes made by the US government, but believes that Washington is now heeding some of his advice,” according to WikiLeaks.

Michele Alliot-Marie, former defense and foreign affairs minister under Chirac and Sarkozy, told France’s iTele TV channel that France had long known that the US had the technical means to intercept conversations.

“We are not naive, the conversations that took place between the defense ministry and the president did not happen on the telephone … It does raise the problem of the relationship of trust between allies.”