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Obama tells Hollande: Snooping will stop

The Local/AFP · 24 Jun 2015, 17:46

Published: 24 Jun 2015 17:46 GMT+02:00
Updated: 24 Jun 2015 17:46 GMT+02:00

Main events:

17:47 - Chirac chimes in
Someone close to former president Jacques Chirac, one of the three presidents hit by the spying scandal, spoke out on the matter on Wednesday afternoon, calling it "unacceptable" and "shocking". 
France and the US are historical allies," the aide said. "France has always acted towards the US in the spirit of friendship, trust, independence and openness... This kind of behaviour is unacceptable between two allied nations."
17:40  - Obama tells Hollande "unacceptable spying will stop"

So Hollande and Obama have had their chat and a brief statement from the Elysée Palace suggests everything remains cordial.

"President Obama reiterated without ambiguity, his firm commitment to end the practices that may have taken place in the past and that are unacceptable between allies."

The Elysée also said that French intelligence chiefs would visit their counterparts in the US in the coming months to "deepen their cooperation".

17:27 - French intelligence services 'knew of embassy spy den'

According to a source in the French intelligence services who has spoken to AFP, Paris knew all about the "secret spy den" on top of the US embassy.

"It's common knowledge that the monitoring system had been installed on the roof of the embassy," said the source.

"Since this system is not intrusive and on US soil, there's not much France can do"

This type of monitoring station "is a common practice in Anglo-Saxon intelligence services and the choice of the location of the embassy near the Elysee and several ministries is not innocent."

16:52 - "It's all just a storm in a tea cup"

While there's been plenty of outcry in France about the spying revelations, most experts suggest it will all blow over in a couple of days and France and the US can get on with being best of buddies.

“It’s a storm in a tea cup. Nothing will happen and it will be allowed to blow over,” Nicolas Dungan, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council tells The Local.

“Hollande has no choice but to say publicly ‘the president of the United States has no business spying on me, but he knows what is happening.

“When it comes to spying, the French know exactly what the US can do and the US knows what the French can do and they probably both expect the other side do everything they can,” says Dungan.

Fore more on this: click link below

US spying: Don't expect France to do anything

15:46 - Prime Minister Valls says the US has work to do

The United States must "do everything in its power" to repair relations, Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Wednesday afternoon. 

"The US should recognise not only the danger that such actions represent for our freedom, but should also do everything in its power -- and quickly -- to repair the damage they have done to relations... between the United States and France," Valls told parliament.

15:27 - Another public statement condemning spying

This time it's the French PM Manuel Valls who has gone public. He told the French parliament on Wednesday that the US "must work to repair relations with France" after the spying claims.

14:04 - France to offer asylum to Snowden and Assange?

As furious French politicians continue to offer up suggestions for how France should best react to the spying scandal, the man known as the "leftist firebrand" Jean-Luc Mélenchon says Paris should offer asylum to two of America's most wanted men.

Mélenchon says France should offer asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, currently holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, currently holed up somewhere in Russia.

Mélenchon, an MEP from the Parti de Gauche also echoed Marine Le Pen's call for an end to negotiations over the transatlantic free trade treaty (TTIP) between the US and the EU.

13:40 - The US needs to respect the rules

The head of France's lower house Claude Bartolone has called on "our American friends" to "respect the rules" and basically to put a "stop to this kind of thing".

13:37 - Hollande to grill Obama

French presidnet François Hollande will get on the phone to his American counterpart Barack Obama at some point on Wednesday to chat about how he's doing, how the kids are and of course the latest damning spying allegations that broke on Tuesday night.

This from AFP: 

French President Francois Hollande will speak with his counterpart Barack Obama "in the coming hours" to discuss reports
that the US spied on him and two predecessors, parliamentarians said Wednesday.

"Talks with the president of the United States are planned in the coming hours," said former prime minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, part of a group of parliamentarians who met with Hollande to discuss the latest revelations from Wikileaks.

13:20 - Calls to destroy part of the US embassy

One French Senator has suggested the only way that France could react is by destroying the part of the American embassy in Paris, that is reportedly home to a secret spy nest.

Yves Pozzo di Borgo, a UDI senator and Paris councillor said "If France has any self respect it would destroy the part of the American embassy where the wiretaps are."

12:41 - Is the EU - US free trade agreement in jeopardy?

France's far-right leader Marine Le Pen wants more than just a request for an apology. She France must immediately end the ongoing negotiations over the free trade deal between Europe and the US.

12:30 - Parliamentary delegation ordered to the Elysée

French president François Hollande continues to mobilize the troops and has called on a delegation of around 20 parliamentarians from across all parties to the Elysée Palace to fill them in on the spying revelations.

12:18 - More on the visit of a French intelligence chief to the US

France will send a top intelligence official to the United States to discuss leaked reports that the US spied on three French presidents, a government spokesman said Wednesday.

"France's national intellgence coordinator (Didier Le Bret) will go to the United States to discuss the understanding between France and the United States" that spying would no longer be carried out, a deal reached after earlier revelations in 2013, said spokesman Stephane Le Foll.

11:57 - Top French intelligence official to travel to the US

One of France's top intelligence officials will travel to the US in the wake of spying allegations, the country's government said on Wednesday.

More details to come on this.

11:30 - Does the US have a secret spying den on the roof of its Paris embassy?

That is what's claimed in Liberation newspaper today. According to its report a rooftop spy nest, hidden behind a canvas with fake windows painted on it, was installed on the roof of the embassy in 2004/05.

The embassy stands just yards from the Elysée palace meaning antennas installed on the roof could pick up conversations behind the palace walls.

In 2013 it was claimed the US was able to spy on Angela Merkel using a similar spy station installed at their embassy in Berlin.

Here's an article with more details on the rooftop spy den.

10:38 - French foreign minister summons US ambassador

Reports say Jane Hartley, the newish US ambassador to France is to be summoned by Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius to discuss the revelations that the US spied on French presidents.

A spokeswoman at the US embassy declined to comment on the report.

Hartley was only installed as ambassdor in Autumn last year and has since kept a fairly low profile. Her country's intelligence services have landed her in hot water though.

10:13 - Defence council says France "won't tolerate threat to security"

Here's the full statement after president Hollande held a defence council meeting on Wednesday.

"The Defence Council met today to consider the nature of the information published yesterday by the press covering the 2006-2012 period and which concern the behavior of the NSA.
"These are unacceptable facts that have already arisen between the United States and France, particularly in late 2013 when the first (spying) revelations during the state visit of the President of the Republic to the United States in February 2014.
"At the time commitments were made by US authorities. They should be remembered and strictly observed."
"France, which has further strengthened its control and protection, will not tolerate anything that could jeopardize the security and protection of his interests."

10:00 - France's Socialists blast the United States

Strong words from France's Socialist party this morning.

"How can a country that places individual freedoms above all then trample them under their feet?

"How could the United States, linked by defense agreements within the framework of Nato, decide to listen to the heads of state of their allies?

"How could the country of the Watergate scandal, the United States, do to others what caused the fall of Nixon?"

"These wiretaps show a truly astounding state paranoia. Just because we knew or suspected that these massive, systematic and uncontrolled wiretaps were in place, doesn't mean they are tolerable," insists the PS.

09:50 - Elysée tweet shows defence council meeting

09:44 - What the Wikileaks documents revealed

If you want to know more about what was heard on those wiretaps of three French presidents, here's a summary of what Hollande, Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac did or said that was picked up in the US.

09:42 - "It's not a major crisis"

Meanwhile more reaction from the French government:

"It is difficult to accept that between allies... there can be this kind of activity, particularly related to wiretapping linked to the president of the Republic," said government spokesman Stephane Le Foll.

"When we are fighting terrorism, one has trouble imagining or understanding what would motivate an ally to spy on his allies," he added.

Le Foll also tried to play down the controversy, saying it was not something that should trigger a major crisis.

"There are enough dangerous crises in the world today," he said.

09:37 - Hollande's defence council begins

The French president has convened his defence council meeting to discuss the spying claims and presumably some kind of reaction.

Among those called to the meeting is PM Manuel Valls, the Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve. Top members of the military are also present at the meeting.

Any guesses what Hollande's response might be?

09:15 - Twittersphere more tickled than shocked

While French politicians are happy to show their shock and outrage over the spying revelations, it seems many members of the French public are not that surprised and find it all a bit of a joke.

"You don't need a microphone François, we are already listening to you," writes Antoine Adam on Twitter next to a picture of Hollande giving a speech alongside Obama.

Commenter Ian Burrows writes: "The only thing shocking about this story is that the French people are shocked. I wonder who the French have been spying on?"

09:10 - "All of French society can be spied on"

More from Mediapart chief Edwy Plenel, whose publication revealed the Wikileaks documents late last night.

Plenel has more promised more shocking revelations are in the pipeline that will show how the "the French Republic is systematically snooped on by their so-called allies."

New documents, Plenel says, will show effectively how "the whole of French society can be wiretapped."

09:00 - Americans must explain themselves

The political reaction in France is coming thick and fast and let's just say everyone is a little cheesed off. Former PM Jean-Marc Ayrault says the "Americans must explain themselves". He also uses a word to describe the wiretapping that has been used pretty frequently this morning - "unacceptable".

Francois Baroin, a minister under Sarkozy - one of the three presidents spied on - has called for a strong response from France.

"These wiretaps are scandalous and France must have a strong response"," he said. "It's unacceptable and dangerous that heads of state are spied on by friends."

Story continues below…

Baroin also said that during his time in the government ministers had suspicions they were being spied on, especially during international meetings.

08:55 - Spying unacceptable between allies, says France

The French government has reacted to the wiretapping claims, saying on Wednesday that spying was "unacceptable between allies".

"It is unacceptable between allies," French government spokesman Stephane Le Foll said, shortly before an emergency meeting called by Hollande with his security chiefs.

#WikiLeaksElysee - C’est "inacceptable entre alliés" (@SLeFoll) >> http://t.co/vjAvGwq0zA pic.twitter.com/VfxITmD2lj

— LCP (@LCPan) June 24, 2015

08:45 - "More revelations to come"

The heads of the two French newspapers who published the revelations from Wikileaks documents say there's more to come.

Laurent Joffrin, editor in chief at Liberation told BFMTV "there will be more revelations" and his counterpart at investigative website Mediapart Edwy Plenel said: "You are going to have more astounding revelations, that will reveal the systematic nature of spying at the heart of the American state, notably around the French presidential election campaign."

08:42 - "The French have a right to know," says Assange

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said French citizens had a right to know their government was "subject to hostile surveillance from a supposed ally", and promised more "timely and important" revelations soon.

08:40 - French ambassador plays down furore

The French ambassador to the US Gerard Araud appeared to downplay the revelations, stating on Twitter: "Every diplomat lives with the certainty that their communications are listened to, and not by just one country. Real world."

Important, confidential discussions are held by "secure methods of communication", he continued, but "all our other devices are, by definition, listened to".

08:30 - US denies spying claims

The White House Tuesday insisted it is not targeting French President Francois Hollande's communications and will not do so, after documents released by WikiLeaks showed the United States wiretapped three French leaders, including him.

"We are not targeting and will not target the communications of President Hollande," said National Security Council spokesman Ned Price, without addressing what might have been done in the past.

"We do not conduct any foreign intelligence surveillance activities unless there is a specific and validated national security purpose. This applies to ordinary citizens and world leaders alike," he said.

"We work closely with France on all matters of international concern, and the French are indispensable partners."

08:15 - Hollande calls defence council

France's President Francois Hollande will convene a defence council meeting on Wednesday over reports quoting documents leaked by WikiLeaks claiming that the United States wiretapped French leaders, an aide told AFP.

"The president has decided to hold a defence council meeting Wednesday morning at 9am to evaluate the nature of the information published by the press on Tuesday evening and to draw useful conclusions," added the source.




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

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