The U.S. National Security Agency has been conducting high-level digital and phone surveillance against top French government officials, including the nation's three most recent presidents, the media outlet WikiLeaks has revealed by publishing "top secret" intelligence reports that include targeting information and specific intercepts gathered over the last decade.
While indicating the trove of sensitive and potentially embarrassing documents won't be the last, the new revelations offer more evidence—in addition to similar discoveries about NSA spying on top German officials—that not even the U.S. government's closest European allies are considered off-limits when it comes to the spying eyes of its intelligence agencies. In coordination with WikiLeaks, the news was first reported in the French outlets Libération and Mediapart.
In its release, WikiLeaks references the NSA's spying on Germany which caused an uproar in that country, but said the new documents related to the spying on the French provides much greater insight into how the U.S. monitors its allies' leaders and the kind of information it is able to collect by doing so. The documents, which can viewed here and here, include lists of "targets" and the contents of "intercepts" derived from U.S. spying on the phone calls of French leaders and ministers in order to gain "political, economic and diplomatic" advantage.
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According to WikiLeaks:
The top secret documents derive from directly targeted NSA surveillance of the communications of French Presidents Francois Hollande (2012–present), Nicolas Sarkozy (2007–2012), and Jacques Chirac (1995–2007), as well as French cabinet ministers and the French Ambassador to the United States. The documents also contain the "selectors" from the target list, detailing the cell phone numbers of numerous officials in the Elysee up to and including the direct cell phone of the President.
Prominent within the top secret cache of documents are intelligence summaries of conversations between French government officials concerning some of the most pressing issues facing France and the international community, including the global financial crisis, the Greek debt crisis, the leadership and future of the European Union, the relationship between the Hollande administration and the German government of Angela Merkel, French efforts to determine the make-up of the executive staff of the United Nations, French involvement in the conflict in Palestine and a dispute between the French and US governments over US spying on France.
WikiLeaks' founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange said, "The French people have a right to know that their elected government is subject to hostile surveillance from a supposed ally." And, he added, "French readers can expect more timely and important revelations in the near future."
In response to the news of the spying on France, the French Ambassador to the U.S. was summoned home and a statement from the office of President François Hollande expressed grave concerns. "France will not tolerate actions that threaten its security and the protection of its interests," the statement said.
Referencing previous revelations of U.S. spying against French officials, the president's office described the new information as "unacceptable" and said such issues over surveillance have "already been the subject of clarification between the US and France, notably at the end of 2013 when the first revelations were made and during a state visit by the president of the Republic to the United States in February 2014. Commitments were made by the US authorities. They need to be recalled and strictly respected."
Hollande also called an emergency meeting of his cabinet and beckoned top French lawmakers to the Elysée Palace to brief them on the situation.