Valdosta Daily Times

Top News

October 22, 2013

France joins list of allies angry over NSA spying

WASHINGTON — Joining a growing list of angry allies, France on Monday demanded an explanation from Washington of a report that the U.S. swept up 70 million French telephone records and text messages in its global surveillance net, even recording certain private conversations.

The fallout prompted a phone call from President Barack Obama to President Francois Hollande and, the White House said, an acknowledgment by Obama that the episode raises “legitimate questions for our friends and allies” about how U.S. surveillance capabilities are employed. Hollande’s office issued a strongly worded statement afterward expressing “profound reprobation” over U.S. actions that it said intruded on the private lives of French citizens.

Spying among friendly countries is classic tradecraft but the sweep and scope of the National Security Agency program have surprised allies and raised indignation among those targeted — Germany, Mexico and Brazil among them.

The report in Le Monde, co-written by Glenn Greenwald, who originally revealed the surveillance program based on leaks from former NSA analyst Edward Snowden, found that when certain phone numbers were used, conversations were automatically recorded. The surveillance operation also gathered text messages based on key words, Le Monde reported.

“This sort of practice between partners that invades privacy is totally unacceptable and we have to make sure, very quickly, that this no longer happens,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.  “We fully agree that we cooperate to fight terrorism. It is indispensable. But this does not justify that personal data of millions of our compatriots are snooped on.”

Seeking to limit damage in relations with one of America’s closest allies, Obama called Hollande late Monday and made clear the U.S. government is reviewing its intelligence-gathering “so that we properly balance the legitimate security concerns of our citizens and allies with the privacy concerns that all people share,” a White House statement said. The statement said some recent disclosures have “distorted our activities” while others have raised genuine concerns by other countries.

Earlier, the French government summoned U.S. Ambassador Charles Rivkin for answers. A statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Paris said Rivkin assured Alexandre Ziegler, chief of staff to Fabius, that “our ongoing bilateral consultations on allegations of information-gathering by U.S. government agencies would continue.”

The level of the diplomatic consultation at the time — between the U.S. ambassador and only an aide to Fabius — suggested that France was modulating its response. Secretary of State John Kerry landed in Paris early Monday for meetings on Middle East issues and could have been contacted immediately if it appeared relations were in deeper trouble. But the matter was subsequently elevated with Obama’s phone call.

Hollande’s office said later that the French leader asked Obama to make available all information on NSA spying of French communications.

Kerry would not confirm the newspaper account or discuss intelligence-gathering except to say:  “Lots of countries are engaged in the activity of trying to protect their citizens in the world.”

Le Monde reported that from Dec. 10, 2012 to Jan. 8 of this year, 70.3 million recordings of French citizens’ telephone data were made by the NSA. Intercepts peaked at almost 7 million in Dec. 24 and again on Jan. 7, the paper said. The targets were people with suspected links to terrorism and people chosen because of their roles in business, politics or the French government, the report said.

Former CIA officer Bob Baer, who was stationed in Paris for three years, said the French intelligence service regularly spies on Americans — both on U.S. diplomats and business people. The spying has included rifling through possessions of a diplomat, businessman or spy in Paris hotel rooms and installing listening devices in first-class seats of the now-defunct Concord aircraft to record Americans’ conversations, he said.

In another instance, a former French intelligence director stated that the spy agency compiled a detailed secret dossier of the proprietary proposals that U.S. and Soviet companies wrote to compete with a French company for a $1 billion contract to supply fighter jets to India.

But while corporate and spy- vs.-spy espionage may be common, the newspaper report indicated that French citizens were unwittingly drawn into U.S. surveillance, too.

Dennis Blair, a former director of national intelligence, tried to broker a closer intelligence-sharing relationship with France, so the two would simply ask each other to explain political or economic policies directly instead of resorting to snooping.

“The U.S. is overwhelmed by cooperation by France on things like ... terrorism and organized crime,” Blair said in an interview Monday. “It dwarfs the amount of time we spend on spying on each other. I’m hoping the day will come when both countries realize they have a lot more to be gained by working with each other, but we’re not quite there yet.”

1
Text Only
Top News
  • AP600421099 copy.jpg Today in History for Monday, April 21, 2014

    Today is Monday, April 21, the 111th day of 2014. There are 254 days left in the year.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Valdosta runners return to Boston Marathon

    Americans held their breaths a year ago while watching the news. Panic and confusion filled the streets of Boston as participants of the city’s prestigious marathon scrambled to safety after the detonation of two bombs.

    April 21, 2014

  • Ga. online tuition dropping

    Jenni Small has good reason for avoiding 8 a.m. world literature classes at Dalton State College in northern Georgia. The 23-year-old works night shifts as an operator for carpet manufacturer Shaw while finishing her bachelor’s degree in mathematics.
    Instead of heading straight to class from work, she uses eCore — an online system that focuses on “core” classes that every Georgia state college or university student must take — for 1 or 2 courses each semester.

    April 21, 2014

  • Space Robot_Rich copy.jpg NASA’s Robonaut finally getting legs

    Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Nepal Everest Avalanc_Rich copy.jpg Another body pulled from snow in avalanche

    Search teams recovered a 13th body Saturday from the snow and ice covering a dangerous climbing pass on Mount Everest, where an avalanche a day earlier swept over a group of Sherpa guides in the deadliest disaster on the world’s highest peak.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • South Korea Ship Sink_Rich copy.jpg Divers begin pulling bodies from sunken ferry

    After more than three days of frustration and failure, divers on Sunday finally found a way into a submerged ferry off South Korea’s southern shore, discovering more than a dozen bodies inside the ship and pushing the confirmed death toll to 49, officials said.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP450420090 copy.jpg Today in History for Sunday, April 20, 2014

    Today is Easter Sunday, April 20, the 110th day of 2014. There are 255 days left in the year.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Lakeland hospital, convalescent home getting new owner

    The Hospital Authority of Valdosta & Lowndes County,  d/b/a South Georgia Medical Center (Hospital Authority), has entered into a definitive agreement with Lanier Health Services, Inc. to transfer ownership of Lanier Health Services, Inc. d/b/a Louis Smith Memorial Hospital and Lakeland Villa Convalescent Center effective May 1, 2014.

    April 20, 2014

  • Lowndes commissioner certified

    Lowndes County Commissioner Demarcus Marshall earned his certification as a county commissioner from the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government.

    April 20, 2014

  • Brooks urges deep-dug pipeline

    Brooks County commissioners unanimously passed a resolution earlier this month encouraging Sabal Trail to bury its proposed natural gas pipeline two feet deeper than the three-feet requirements.

    April 20, 2014

Top News
Poll

Given the amount of rain recently, what's your favorite “rain” song?

Singing in the Rain
Purple Rain
Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
November Rain
Rainy Night in Georgia
Other
     View Results