Assange urges France to take action against US

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told French television Wednesday that the time had come for legal action over US snooping after leaked documents revealing Washington had spied on three French presidents sparked fresh outrage.

Assange urges France to take action against US
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has urged France to take legal action against the US. Photo: AFP

Speaking on TF1, the anti-secrecy campaigner urged France to go further than Germany: by launching a “parliamentary inquiry” into the foreign surveillance activities and refering “the matter to the prosecutor-general for prosecution”.

German prosecutors had carried out a probe into alleged tapping on Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone, but later dropped the investigation due to a lack of hard evidence.

Assange also said other important revelations were coming.

“I think from a policy perspective what is to come is much more significant than what we have published so far,” he said.

“But now the question really for (President Francois) Hollande and the French leadership is what are the opportunities in their response to address this situation.”

France expressed anger earlier Wednesday after leaked documents labelled “top secret” appeared to reveal US spying on Hollande and his two predecessors, Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac, between 2006 and 2012. The disclosures were published by WikiLeaks along with French newspaper Liberation and the Mediapart website.

France's foreign minister summoned the US ambassador for a formal explanation in response, while Hollande spoke by phone by with US President Barack Obama, who gave fresh assurances that spying on European leaders had ended.

But Assange accused the US of playing “word games”, as it did after revelations of US eavedropping on Merkel.

“What does it matter if they say that they're not going to spy on Hollande personally if they're spying on everyone he talks to?” Assange asked.

“Every single one of these intercepted phone calls that we have published is Hollande talking to someone else, Sarkozy talking to someone else, one of the members of the French government. What does it matter if they say that they're not going to spy on Hollande personally if they're spying on everyone he talks to?”

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France hits back at US spying allegations

France on Wednesday slammed as "unlikely" US allegations that European spy agencies shared phone call records with US intelligence, as a transatlantic surveillance row intensified.

France hits back at US spying allegations
France has slammed allegations from the US that it had handed over phone records on their citizens to NSA spy chiefs. Photo: Jim Watson / AFP

General Keith Alexander, head of the US National Security Agency, on Tuesday took onlookers at a Congress hearing by surprise when he dismissed allegations that his agency had swept up data on millions of phone calls in Europe as "completely false".

Instead, he turned the tables on countries such as France, Germany and Spain – which have reacted with fierce anger to the spying allegations – saying that in many cases European spy agencies had handed phone call records over to them.

"The NSA director's denials don't seem likely," government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said after a cabinet meeting.

She pointed to a pledge made last week by French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose own phone was reportedly tapped, to reach an understanding with the United States on the conduct of intelligence gathering among allies.

"We must shine the light on the practices of the past and make sure that things work out for the best in the future… We cannot let doubt set in between partners," she added.

The allegations of US spying are based on information leaked by former US security contractor Edward Snowden and were published in European newspapers such as France's Le Monde and Germany's Der Spiegel.

They have rocked US President Barack Obama's administration, which claims to have repaired ties with key allies that frayed under former president George W. Bush.

But the outrage in Europe has been met with suspicion by some prominent US politicians, who say everyone spies on everyone at a time of anti-terror priorities.

Alexander and the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on Tuesday said the reports that triggered such fury were based on a misunderstanding of the information passed by Snowden.

France's foreign ministry, meanwhile, said on Wednesday it was specifically concerned about the "nature and scale of US wiretapping on our territory".

"Where our intelligence agencies' surveillance activities are concerned, they are strictly framed by the law," spokesman Romain Nadal said.