• France's news in English
 

US spy agency 'taped millions of French calls'

Published: 21 Oct 2013 10:59 GMT+02:00

LATEST:

France's foreign minister announced on Monday the "immediate" summoning of the US ambassador over a report that American spies eavesdropped on millions of calls made by French citizens.

"I have immediately summoned the US ambassador," Laurent Fabius told reporters as he arrived for an EU foreign ministers meeting, adding a meeting would take place "this morning" at the ministry in Paris.

In its online version on Monday Le Monde claimed the NSA spy agency taped 70.3 million phone calls in France over a 30-day period between December 10th and January 8th, 2013, 

According to the newspaper NSA used various methods to track and collect the phonecalls. 

The NSA automatically picked up communications from certain phone numbers in France, which were then recorded. The same system picked up and recorded text messages, based on certain key words that appeared. The NSA would also systematically record the communication history of each of their targets under a programme code-named "US-985D." 

The techniques used to intercept communications appeared under the codes "DRTBOX" and "WHITEBOX". On average NSA were intercepting three million calls each day over the one month period, which at times rose to 7 million.

Le Monde said the documents gave grounds to think the NSA targeted not only people suspected of being involved in terrorism but also high-profile individuals from the world of business or politics.

US authorities declined to comment to the French daily on the "classified" documents and when The Local contacted the US embassy in Paris on Monday, no one was available for comment.

The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), which earlier this year filed a court complaint in France aimed at forcing French authorities to investigate the PRISM programme, told The Local: "This revelation confirms that we were right to lodge this complaint.

"The government must make all means available to the investigation into this serious affair in order for the truth to be found," said FIDH lawyer Emmanuel Douad.

"This affects not just the liberty of certain individuals but of the French public as a whole. When you look at the number of calls and messages monitored, potentially every citizen in France could have been affected.

"The French government must act to protect the citizens of this country as well as the respect for our fundamental principles."

French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, for his part, said he was "shocked" by the claims, and that he had asked Washington for clear answers.

"I am deeply shocked.... It's incredible that an allied country like the United States at this point goes as far as spying on private communications that have no strategic justification, no justification on the basis of national defence," he told journalists in Copenhagen.

Later on Monday France also said it will will press for new Europe-wide data privacy rules at an EU summit this week.

The White House brushed off France's complaints about the new allegations of eavesdropping simply saying "all nations" conduct spying operations.

"As a matter of policy we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations," said National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden.

In July this year Le Monde newspaper caused a similar stir when it claimed that French intelligence services operated their own Big Brother spy programme to keep tabs in its citizens.

In an editorial defending its decision to publish Monday's claims about the NSA the newspaper said: “Le Monde believes that the public should not be kept in the dark about listening and spying programs, that are of such a dimension that they bring down the whole principles of checks and balances in a democracy.

“The “Snowden revelations” are not intended to weaken democratic societies but to strengthen them and to raise awareness of the risks to our values of this gigantic filtering of data.

“The freedom to communicate and enjoy the privacy of correspondence is a cornerstone of functioning democracies."

SEE ALSO: Top 10 scraps between the US and France

Le Monde's article followed similar revelations by German weekly Der Spiegel that US agents had hacked into the email account of former Mexican president Felipe Calderon.

Mexican authorities have also said they will be seeking answers from US officials "as soon as possible" following the allegations.

This is not the first time France has reacted with anger over claims the US had been snooping.

In July, President Francois Hollande demanded the US "immediately" stop spying on French envoys after it emerged its offices at the UN in New York and its embassy in Washington DC had been bugged. 

The government then threatened to pull the plug on crucial free trade talks between the EU and the US.

The spying revelations even forced the French PM to take drastic action by banning his ministers and their staff from using smartphones to communicate sensitive data.

In his memo the PM also told ministers to avoid sending text messages to each other.To justify the measure, the circular pointed to the recent “security threats”

Edward Snowden, who has taken refuge in Russia, is wanted in the United States for espionage and other charges after leaking details of the NSA's worldwide snooping activities.

In August a court in Paris opened a formal investigation into the PRISM program of electronic surveillance run by the US National Security Agency.

Prosecutors will investigate possible "fraudulent access to and maintenance of an automated data processing system," the "illicit collection of data of a personal nature," "attacks on privacy," and "violations of the secrecy of correspondence," according to BFMTV.

The investigation was opened after two human rights organisations earlier this summer lodged a complaint with the court, aimed at exploring whether a raft of American IT firms including Google, Yahoo and Apple had cooperated with US authorities to help them gather intelligence.

In a statement released at the time, the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and the French League of Human Rights (LDH) attacked the mass surveillance of global communications by US intelligence services that was carried out "under the guise of the fight against terrorism and organized crime".

Don't miss a story about France - Join us on Facebook and Twitter.

AFP/The Local (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Waterloo: Why is it still taboo for the French?
A Waterloo reenactment. Photo: AFP

Waterloo: Why is it still taboo for the French?

France stood accused this week of "sulking" because it failed to nominate any high-ranking official to attend the gigantic commemoration for the 200-year anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo. READ  

France's cheapest holiday spots revealed
Holidayers in Nice, southern France. Photo: AFP

France's cheapest holiday spots revealed

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that Paris is the most expensive region in France to spend a summer holiday... but where is the cheapest? A new study has found the answer. READ  

France pulls up sunken tyres from artificial reefs
The tyres are hauled up from the seabed. Photo: AFP

France pulls up sunken tyres from artificial reefs

Tourists and film stars hitting the beach at the French Riviera resort of Cannes may be blissfully unaware but lurking beneath the sparkling waves are tens of thousands of now troublesome scrap tyres, sunk deliberately to boost marine development. READ  

French films
The best French films you've never heard of
French actor Tahar Rahim in a scene from A Prophet. Photo: YouTube/Screengrab

The best French films you've never heard of

With the Cannes Film Festival nearing its end and with everyone talking about everything film - we take a look back at the best ten French movies you've probably never heard of, thanks to French cinema expert Judith Prescott. READ  

Tourism in Paris
Eiffel Tower shuts as staff protest pickpockets
Tourists at the France's iconic Eiffel Tower. Photo: AFP

Eiffel Tower shuts as staff protest pickpockets

The Eiffel Tower was closed on Friday morning, as workers protested over the scourge of pickpockets around the famous monument, who they say have threatened and attacked them. READ  

Paris couple found in flat with throats slit
Photo: AFP

Paris couple found in flat with throats slit

A woman, who was reportedly pregnant, was found dead with her throat slit in a Paris apartment on Friday while her partner was left in a critical condition. An electric sander was found running beside their bodies. READ  

Cannes Film Festival
Sophie Marceau: Queen of baring all at Cannes
Sophie Marceau is a member of the Feature Film jury this year at Cannes. Photo: AFP

Sophie Marceau: Queen of baring all at Cannes

French actress Sophie Marceau is surely the undisputed queen of the Cannes wardrobe malfunction after her plunging jacket gave photographers more than an eyeful once again this week. And it's not the first time she's given the paparazzi palpitations. READ  

Cameron to visit Paris to push for EU reform
UK PM David Cameron will hope to convince François Hollande that Britain should be allowed to renegotiate its relationship to the EU. Photo: AFP

Cameron to visit Paris to push for EU reform

UK Prime Minister David Cameron is to visit Paris next week as part of his charm offensive as he tries to persuade European leaders to allow Britain to renegotiate its ties with the EU, ahead of a planned In/Out referendum in the UK. READ  

Homes in northern France shaken by quake
The quake was felt across the Channel in the northern French departement of Pas-de-Calais. Photo: France's Central Bureau of Seismology (BCSF)

Homes in northern France shaken by quake

The tremors from a 4.4 magnitude earthquake were felt in northern France early on Friday morning, prompting several worried calls to the emergency services. READ  

France: 'World must act over threat to Palmyra'
The ancient city of Palmyra whose archaeological treasures are threatened by Isis. Photo: AFP

France: 'World must act over threat to Palmyra'

French President Francois Hollande on Thursday said the world must respond to Islamic State jihadists' seizure of Palmyra amid fears they could destroy the Syrian city's world renowned ancient monuments. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Features
Take a tour of the best Metro stations that Paris has to offer
National
Soon there'll be a fixed fare for a taxi ride from the airport into Paris
National
Drug dealers in Marseille are offering customers loyalty cards
Soon there'll be no minimum for using your bank card in France
Features
Eurovision is around the corner - and we don't fancy France's chances
Features
Fancy starting a business and living in Paris? There's help available
National
Are you fearing a Brexit? Maybe it's time to become a French citizen
How hard-up French are tempted by money to take migrants to the UK
Bupa
Sponsored Article
Healthcare: 9 questions every expat should ask
Education
More English words (including 'le selfie') sneak into French
Charlie Hebdo to give €4.3m to attack victims
National
French Protestants bless gay marriage
Opinion
Why elitism is dragging France down
Features
RECIPE: How to make your own picnic-perfect meringues
Business & Money
French tax declaration deadline: Key things to remember
VIDEO: Can YOU pronounce the trickiest word in French?
France tops holiday wish list for children
National
Study: Women do bulk of housework in France
National
VIDEO: Police use force on Calais migrants
National
This man is France's Instagram king. But who else makes the top list?
Features
Free museum entry, film festivals, sports... see What's On this in May
Culture
Behind the curtain: A closer look at the Cannes Film Festival
National
It's a boy! Baby born on Air France flight to Paris
Features
Love-locked: Whatever happened to Paris's beautiful bridges?
'Forget the UK election, expats should be able to vote in France'
Thomas Piketty backs Miliband for Britain but not Hollande for France
Gallery
The most spectacular sunset pictures from around France
National
France tells migrants in Calais to 'forget the UK and stay here'
Who's to blame? Trial after Frenchman dies downing 56 shots
Society
VIDEO: See what's beneath the surface of the French Riviera
National
French teen suicide after sex video web bullying
France launches bid to buy Europe's biggest and most spectacular dune
Business & Money
Why May 2015 is the best month in years to work in France
Five great outdoor bars in Paris to check out this summer
Double standards? French Muslim barred from class over long skirt
National
France goes on the defensive after UN experts say 'racism is trivialised'
Five reasons we should be worried about France's new snooping laws
International
The French don't seem to care about the UK election and that's normal
Culture
Only in France? Naked comedian stuns French culture minister
Migrant camps spring up in the heart of Paris
International
France bags another fighter jet deal but should Paris thank the US?
Society
French elevator protocol: Greeting, flirting and yes, even sex
Travel
Getting from CDG airport to Paris by road should now be a lot quicker
Politics
Why all the dodgy ties? A French view of the UK general election
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se