NSA caught spying on 3 French presidents

President François Hollande has called an emergency national defence council meeting after allegations by the online whistleblower WikiLeaks that America’s National Security Agency (NSA) spied on three successive French presidents.

The meeting will be held at 9am on Wednesday “to evaluate the nature of the information published by the press… and to draw useful conclusions,” a presidential aide said.

The announcement came just hours after WikiLeaks published documents it says show that the National Security Agency spied on top French government figures from at least 2006 until 2012.

“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,” it said in a statement.

François Hollande France

The revelation that the United States was spying on its close ally for political, economic and diplomatic intelligence is likely to cause a political storm in France, whose parliament is currently finalising a new bill that would give French intelligence agencies sweeping new powers to monitor phone metadata and online activities.

While Mr Hollande has yet to comment directly on the matter, his Socialist Party issued an angry statement saying the reports suggest “a truly stupefying state paranoia.” Even if the government was aware of such intercepts, the party said, that doesn’t mean “that this massive, systematic, uncontrolled eavesdropping is tolerable.”

An aide to Mr Hollande’s predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, said that the former president considers these methods unacceptable, especially from an ally.

The United States refused on Tuesday to confirm or deny the allegations.

“We are not going to comment on specific intelligence allegations,” a statement from the White House National Security Council said.

“As a general matter, we do not conduct any foreign intelligence surveillance activities unless there is a specific and validated national security purpose,” it said.

Revelations that the NSA was allegedly eavesdropping on Angela Merkel’s mobile phone sparked a political scandal in Germany in 2013 and led to the German Chancellor issuing a strong rebuke to the United States.

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

The latest revelations consist of NSA intelligence summaries of conversations between top French officials on issues such as the global financial crisis, the Greek debt crisis, the leadership and future of the European Union, the website said in documents first reported by French media.

Other issues included the relationship between Mr Hollande’s Socialist government and Ms Merkel’s administration in Germany, French efforts to determine the make-up 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 detail the mobile phone numbers of numerous officials in the Elysée, up to and including the mobile phone line of the president, and those of the prime minister and other ministers.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said: “The French people have a right to know that their elected government is subject to hostile surveillance from a supposed ally. We are proud of our work with leading French publishers Liberation and Mediapart to bring this story to light.”

He said that French readers could expect more timely and important revelations in the near future.”

All the documents were classified as “top secret” and were destined for NSA and other US intelligence chiefs, with just two of the five marked to be passed on to the “Five Eyes” – the intelligence partnership that includes the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, French media said.

Libération reported that Mr Hollande’s aides said when the paper contacted them for comment that when the president had visited Washington last year, US President Barack Obama had made a commitment to end eavesdropping on allied countries.

Last week, WikiLeaks published more than 60,000 diplomatic cables from Saudi Arabia and said on its website it would release half a million more in the coming weeks.

SOURCE