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US embassy in Paris is 'home to secret spy nest'

Ben McPartland · 24 Jun 2015, 12:23

Published: 24 Jun 2015 12:23 GMT+02:00

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Follow our live blog here for more reaction from France on the revelations. 

As revelations emerged on Wednesday that the US spied on not one, but three French presidents, focus was being turned to the roof of the US embassy in Paris.

The embassy is located just a stone's throw away from the Elysée palace where the three presidents Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande all resided over the last ten years.

Liberation newspaper, one of the publications that revealed the spying claims, suggested the building is home to secret rooftop spy station hidden behind a canvas, with fake windows painted on it.

It might seem too simple to be true but according to Liberation this is where the US intelligence services snooped on communications from the Elysée and various ministries, all located nearby.

The paper claims the Special Collection Service, a unit combined by the members of the CIA and the NSA, were in charge of collecting the data.

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

The spying den was installed back in 2004/05 during work on the roof of the embassy, the paper claims.

Concealed behind the canvas, which allows electro-magnetic signals to pass through, are a number of antennas that can pick up phone conversations in the vicinity, Jean-Marc Manarch, the Liberation journalist behind the claims, told BFM TV.

A spokeswoman for the US embassy in Paris told The Local they would not be commenting on claims about the rooftop spy den.

Claims of the secret snooping station were first made by the blog Zone d’Interet in 2013, which claimed that many US embassies around the world have similar units, notably Berlin, Madrid and Stockholm.

In 2013 it was claimed that the NSA spied on Angela Merkel's mobile phone from a spy station installed at the US embassy in Berlin.

However experts claim news of US spying on France's presidents shouldn't come as a surprise.

“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 told The Local.

“Hollande has no choice but to say publically ‘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.

Story continues below…

SEE ALSO: Ten transatlantic scraps between France and the US



Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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