WikiLeaks: NSA spied on last 3 French presidents
Paris — WikiLeaks published documents late Tuesday that it says show the U.S. 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 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 U.S. 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.
WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson told the Associated Press he was confident the documents were authentic, noting that WikiLeaks’ previous mass disclosures 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.
U.S. National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement that the American government would not comment on the specifics of the leak.
Ever since documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden showed in 2013 that the NSA had been eavesdropping on the cellphone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, it had been understood that the U.S. had been using the digital spying agency to intercept the conversations of allied politicians.
Still, the new revelations are bound to cause diplomatic embarrassment for the Americans.
Late Tuesday, several French politicians posted messages to social media voicing their disgust with the reports.
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