France ‘spied on French phones for the US’

The international row over spying took a new twist this week with US officials telling the Wall Street Journal that electronic spying on French and Spanish phone records was carried out by those countries' intelligence services and not by the National Security Agency.

France 'spied on French phones for the US'
Did the French hand over phone records to NSA. Photos: Phil Campbell/Sergey Supinski/AFP

Citing unnamed US officials, the Journal's report contradicted earlier accounts from French and Spanish media that alleged the NSA was scooping up millions of phone records of citizens in those countries.

The news reports had been based on leaks from former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who has disclosed a series of classified documents on NSA surveillance that has provoked a global firestorm.

The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, had said an article in Le Monde that alleged 70 million French phone calls were collected from December 2012 to January 2013 was "inaccurate" and "misleading."

But he did not specify exactly what was incorrect about the coverage.

US officials told the Wall Street Journal that the documents provided by Snowden to European media had been misinterpreted and show that phone records were first collected by French and Spanish spy agencies, and then shared with the NSA.

The officials said the document also shows that the phone records collected by the French were gathered outside of France, and then passed along to the US intelligence community.

The leaked information does not indicate that the French spied on their own citizens inside the country.

The NSA declined to comment on the Journal report but the director of the eavesdropping agency, General Keith Alexander was due to appear before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday afternoon.

The sharing of phone data was separate from US spying on foreign leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, according to the Journal.

Both the reports on the collection of phone records and revelations of NSA eavesdropping on the leaders of friendly governments has provoked outrage among US allies.

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‘We have a lot to do’: Macron congratulates Joe Biden on winning US presidential election

French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday congratulated US president-elect Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris on their election victory.

'We have a lot to do': Macron congratulates Joe Biden on winning US presidential election
Joe Biden. AFP

“The Americans have chosen their president,” said Macron

“We have a lot to do to overcome today's challenges. Let's work together!” Macron tweeted, in French and English, after major US media networks announced Biden's victory over incumbent Donald Trump.

Macron has never met Biden, who will in January become the 46th president of the United States.

France under Macron is keen for Europe to move away from its reliance on US military might, for defence in particular.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo reacted to Biden's win by saying “Welcome back America”.


Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Thursday reinforced recent statements from Paris that the nature of US-EU relations had permanently changed under Trump.

Europe needs to build a “new trans-atlantic relationship, which is a new partnership” irrespective of who wins, he said then.

“We cannot go back to the status quo ante, to a kind of good old days in the trans-atlantic relationship,” as Europe affirms its sovereignty in security, defence and strategic autonomy, Le Drian added.

Apart from the far right, the French political class generally hailed Biden's victory at the polls, which saw him win more votes than any other US president in history.

Former French president Francois Hollande, who was in office when Trump came to power in 2016, welcomed the “good news for American democracy”.

Biden has promised to return the United States to the Paris Climate Agreement after Trump pulled out of it.

Hollande hailed the “happy news for the planet with the return of United States in the climate agreement”.