France calls US spying ‘unacceptable’ after WikiLeaks claims
France summoned the U. S. ambassador on Wednesday to complain about “unacceptable” spying on President Francois Hollande and his two predecessors that was apparently revealed in leaked documents.
Hollande was due to discuss the documents released by WikiLeaks with U.S. President Barack Obama in the coming hours.
France “will not tolerate any acts that threaten its security” the presidency said, after a meeting between Hollande and his top intelligence officials and cabinet ministers.
U.S. Ambassador Jane Hartley has also been summoned to meet French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, diplomatic sources told AFP.
The documents — labeled “Top Secret” and appearing to reveal spying on Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy and Hollande from 2006 to 2012 — were pub- lished by WikiLeaks in partnership with French newspaper Liberation and the Mediapart website.
The leak coincides with a vote later on Wednesday in the French parliament on a controversial new law granting the state sweeping powers to spy on its citizens.
The White House said it was not targeting Hollande’s communications and will not do so in the future, but it did not comment on past activities.
“We are not targeting and will not target the communications of President Hollande,” said National Security Council spokesman Ned Price late Tuesday, calling the U.S. partnership with France “indispensable.”
Hollande’s office recalled U.S. promises in late 2013 not to spy on French leaders following accusations that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) had wiretapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“Commitments were made by the U.S. authorities,” the Elysee Palace said in a statement. “They must be remembered and strictly respected.”
France’s newly appointed national intelligence coordinator Didier Le Bret will also travel to Washington to discuss the issue, the government said.
Secret Meetings on Greece
The leaked documents include five from the NSA, the most recent dated May 22, 2012, just days after Hollande took office.
It claims Hollande “approved holding secret meetings in Paris to discuss the eurozone crisis, particularly the consequences of a Greek exit from the eurozone.”
It also says Hollande believed after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that she “had given up (on Greece) and was unwilling to budge.”
“This made Hollande very worried for Greece and the Greek people, who might react by voting for an extremist party,” according to the document.
The same file also alleges that the French leader went behind Merkel’s back to schedule meetings in Paris with members of the Social Democrats — Germany’s main opposition party at the time.
Another document, dated 2008, was titled “Sarkozy sees himself as only one who can resolve the world financial crisis,” and said the former French president “blamed many of the current economic problems on mistakes made by the U.S. government, but believes that Washington is now heeding some of his advice.”
One leak describes Sarkozy’s frustration at U. S. espionage, saying the “main sticking point” in achieving greater intelligence cooperation “is the U.S. desire to continue spying on France.”
Chirac’s choice for appointments at the United Nations was the subject of a file dated 2006. In that same document, then foreign minister Philippe DousteBlazy was described as someone who has the “propensity ... for making ill-timed or inaccurate remarks.”
In Washington, NSC spokesman Price echoed a statement issued earlier Tuesday by the security council, saying: “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.”
France’s ambassador to the U.S., Gerard Araud, appeared to downplay the revelations, saying 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.”
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said French citizens had a right to know their government was “subject to hostile surveil- lance from a supposed ally,” and promised more “timely and important” revelations soon.
Documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 had revealed mass U.S. surveillance activities, sparking global outrage.
British newspaper The Guardian reported at the time that the NSA had listened in on the phone calls of 35 world lead- ers. According to various reports they include the leaders of France, Mexico and Brazil.
While it was not known then if Hollande’s phone was bugged, the French leader had said on a visit in Washington in February 2014 that the two allies had resolved their differences over American digital eavesdropping.
“Mutual trust has been restored,” Hollande said then.
A combination made on June 24, shows three pictures, left to right, the first from March 27, 2007 in Marseille shows then-presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy, the second made in Newport on Sept. 4, 2014 shows French President Francois Hollande and the last one from March 24, 2001 in Stockholm shows then-French President Jacques Chirac.