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NSA Spied on French Businesses, Political Networks: Report

Latest Snowden documents show that close allies frequently targeted and surveillance extends beyond counter-terrorism efforts

Jon Queally

The people of France woke to news Monday that their phone calls and email messages have also been collected on a mass scale by the spying eyes of the U.S. National Security Agency.

Like Brazilians, Mexicans, Germans, and countless citizens from across the Middle East and elsewhere, new revelations based on documents released by Edward Snowden and reported on by journalist Glenn Greenwald—this time for Le Monde in Paris—show that the NSA has used its global surveillance capabilities to spy on French communication networks.

According to Greenwald's reporting, which was done in collaboration with journalists at the French paper, the NSA targeting in France was not restricted to those with alleged terrorist ties, but was extended to individuals or networks in the "worlds of business, politics or French state administration."

Le Monde reports (in translation):

According to the documents retrieved from the NSA database by its ex-analyst, telephone communications of French citizens are intercepted on a massive scale. Le Monde has been able to obtain access to documents which describe the techniques used to violate the secrets or simply the private life of French people. Some elements of information about this espionage have been referred to by Der Speigel and The Guardian, but others are, to date, unpublished.

Amongst the thousands of documents extracted from the NSA by its ex-employee there is a graph which describes the extent of telephone monitoring and tapping (DNR – Dial Number Recognition) carried out in France. It can be seen that over a period of thirty days – from 10 December 2012 to 8 January 2013, 70,3 million recordings of French citizens' telephone data were made by the NSA. This agency has several methods of data collection. According to the elements obtained by Le Monde, when a telephone number is used in France, it activates a signal which automatically triggers the recording of the call. Apparently this surveillance system also picks up SMS messages and their content using key words. Finally, the NSA apparently stores the history of the connections of each target – or the meta-data.

In response to the revelations, according to The Guardian, the French government has "summoned the US ambassador in Paris, demanding an explanation about claims."

From The Guardian:

The French interior minister, Manuel Valls, has described the revelations as shocking, and said he will be pressing for detailed explanations from Washington.

"Rules are obviously needed when it comes to new communication technologies, and that's something that concerns every country," he told Europe-1 radio. "If a friendly country – an ally – spies on France or other European countries, that is completely unacceptable."

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