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SPYING

France ‘opens probe’ into US spy program PRISM

A court in Paris has opened a formal investigation into the PRISM program of electronic surveillance run by the US National Security Agency, and revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden, it emerged on Wednesday.

France 'opens probe' into US spy program PRISM
Photo: Dano/Flickr

The court has opened a wide-ranging probe into the PRISM program, sources close to the case revealed on Wednesday.

Prosecutors will investigate possible "fraudulent access and maintenance of and 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.

In the wake of the Snowden affair, 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 organised crime".

"This uncontrolled intrusion into people's lives is a significant threat to individual liberties and must be curbed at the risk of seeing the rule of law disappear. So the FIDH and LDH have asked a French court to open a judicial investigation into these matters," the statement said.

Lawyers said the groups had filed the 'complaint against X' in Paris. Under French law, such complaints allow investigators to pursue a wide-ranging probe against nine US firms as well as US intelligence agencies.

In the name of defending human rights, the organisations had believed a court process could clarify the roles played by IT giants like Microsoft and Google in the US PRISM surveillance programme.

Other firms the rights groups want French authorities to investigate are Facebook, YouTube, AOL, Paltalk and Skype. All the firms have denied any collaboration with US intelligence agencies.

“We have never seen such an infringement on individual freedoms, to such a large scale, from a foreign nation and it potentially affects all French citizens and all French internet users when they use Google, Microsoft, Apple, Skype and other companies,” Emmanuel Daoud, the lawyer for the two rights organisations told France Info radio.

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RUSSIA

Senior French officer held on suspicion of spying for Russia

A senior French military officer stationed at a NATO base has been indicted and jailed on suspicion of spying for Russia, local media and sources said on Sunday.

Senior French officer held on suspicion of spying for Russia
A change of command ceremony at the base of NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance Force in Sigonella, Italy. It is not known at which Italian Nato base the officer was stationed. Photo: Falk Plankenhorn
The French army officer was stationed abroad, a judicial source said confirming details from Europe 1 radio. According to the report, the soldier was stationed on a NATO base in Italy and is suspected of espionage on behalf of Russia.
   
The French government confirmed it was investigating a senior military officer over a “security breach”.
   
“What I can confirm is that a senior officer is facing legal proceedings for a security breach,” Defence Minister Florence Parly told Europe 1 radio, CNews and Les Echos newspaper. She gave no further details.
   
The judicial source said the officer had been indicted and jailed on charges involving “intelligence with a foreign power that undermines the fundamental interests of the nation”.
   
He is being prosecuted for “delivering information to a foreign power”, “collecting information harming the fundamental interests of the nation with a view to delivering them to a foreign power” and “compromising the secrecy of national defence”, the source said.
 
   
Europe 1 said the officer was a lieutenant-colonel stationed with NATO in Italy and had been placed under investigation on suspicion of spying for Russia.
   
He speaks Russian and was seen in Italy with a man identified as an agent of the GRU, the Russian military intelligence
service, the report said. It said he is suspected of having supplied sensitive documents to Russian intelligence.
   
The man was arrested by DGSI intelligence service as he was about to leave for Italy at the end of his holidays in France, and is being held at a prison in Paris, Europe 1 said.
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