Paris | WikiLeaks published documents that it says show the US National Security Agency eavesdropped on the last three French presidents, releasing material which appeared to capture officials in Paris talking candidly about Greece’s economy, relations with Germany and, ironically, American espionage.
The release caused an uproar among French politicians, although it didn’t reveal any huge surprises or secrets. France itself is on the verge of approving broad new surveillance powers, and is among several US allies that rely heavily on American spying powers when trying to prevent terrorist and other threats. There was no instant confirmation of the accuracy of the documents released in collaboration with French daily newspaper Liberation and investigative website Mediapart, but WikiLeaks has a track record of publishing intelligence and diplomatic material.
It appeared serious enough to prompt an emergency meeting of President Francois Hollande’s defense council, according to presidential aides. The council, convening Wednesday morning, includes top French security officials. WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson told The Associated Press he was confident the documents were authentic, noting that WikiLeaks’ previous mass disclosures including a large cache of Saudi diplomatic memos released last week have proven to be accurate.
Hollande’s office didn’t comment beyond announcing Wednesday’s security meeting, though 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 Hollande’s predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy told the AP that the former president considers these methods unacceptable, especially from an ally. The aide was not authorized to be publicly named. There was no immediate comment from former President Jacques Chirac, also reportedly targeted by the eavesdropping. US National Security Council spokesman Ned Price released a statement yesterday evening saying the US is not targeting and will not target the communications of President Hollande.
We do not conduct any foreign intelligence surveillance activities unless there is a specific and validated national security purpose, Price added. This applies to ordinary citizens and world leaders alike. We work closely with France on all matters of international concern, and the French are indispensable partners. Price did not address claims that the US had previously eavesdropped on Hollande or his predecessors.