France de­nounces spy­ing by U. S.

Doc­u­ments ex­posed by Wik­iLeaks show eavesdropping go­ing back to Chirac era.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By Kim Will­sher Will­sher is a spe­cial cor­re­spon­dent. Times staff writer Michael A. Me­moli in Washington con­trib­uted to this re­port.

PARIS — French Pres­i­dent Fran­cois Hol­lande held a cri­sis meet­ing of the coun­try’s De­fense Coun­cil on Wed­nes­day af­ter news­pa­pers pub­lished Wik­iLeaks doc­u­ments show­ing that the United States eaves­dropped on him and two pre­de­ces­sors.

Af­ter the meet­ing, the coun­cil is­sued a state­ment lam­bast­ing U. S. spy­ing as “un­ac­cept­able” and declar­ing that France had de­manded two years ago that the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Agency stop snoop­ing on its lead­ers.

Hol­lande spoke to Pres­i­dent Obama on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon as law­mak­ers across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum in­sisted the French pres­i­dent de­mand a for­mal apol­ogy. Af­ter the tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion, the El­y­see Palace is­sued a state­ment say­ing Obama had “re­it­er­ated a f irm pledge” made two years ago, af­ter al­le­ga­tions of U. S. spy­ing on French of­fi­cials f irst emerged, that the prac­tice had been halted.

A White House state­ment said Obama had re­it­er­ated “that we are not tar­get­ing and will not tar­get the com­mu­ni­ca­tions of the French pres­i­dent.” The state­ment made no ad­mis­sion of prior spy­ing, nor ruled out in­tel­li­gence- gath­er­ing ef­forts on the French more broadly.

“We are com­mit­ted to our pro­duc­tive and in­dis­pens­able in­tel­li­gence re­la­tion­ship with France, which al­lows us to make progress against shared threats, in­clud­ing in­ter­na­tional ter­ror­ism and pro­lif­er­a­tion, among oth­ers,” the White House said.

The pres­i­dent feted Hol­lande dur­ing a 2014 state visit to Washington, and the two lead­ers em­pha­sized their deep­en­ing ties.

The latest Wik­iLeaks rev­e­la­tions, f irst pub­lished in the daily news­pa­per Lib­er­a­tion and the in­ves­tiga­tive news web­site Me­di­a­part, al­lege that the NSA eaves­dropped on tele­phone con­ver­sa­tions of for­mer Pres­i­dents Jac­ques Chirac and Ni­co­las Sarkozy as well as Hol­lande.

Wik­iLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafns­son said he was con­fi­dent the doc­u­ments were au­then­tic, the As­so­ci­ated Press re­ported.

For­eign Min­is­ter Lau­rent Fabius sum­moned the Amer­i­can am­bas­sador to Paris, Jane Hart­ley, to his off ice Wed­nes­day evening to de­mand an ex­pla­na­tion over the spy­ing claims, which sparked in­dig­na­tion and anger in France.

“These are un­ac­cept­able facts that have al­ready been the sub­ject of clar­i­fi­ca­tion be­tween the U. S. and France, no­tably at the end of 2013 when the f irst rev­e­la­tions were made and dur­ing a state visit by the pres­i­dent of the re­pub­lic to the United States in Fe­bru­ary 2014,” read the De­fense Coun­cil state­ment.

“Prom­ises were made by the Amer­i­can author­i­ties. They must re­mem­ber and strictly re­spect them. France, which has re­in­forced its con­trol and pro­tec­tion mea­sures, will not tol­er­ate any schem­ing that threat­ens its se­cu­rity and the pro­tec­tion of its in­ter­ests,” it read.

In 2013, doc­u­ments re­leased by NSA leaker Ed­ward Snow­den showed that the United States had in­ter­cepted about 70 mil­lion pieces of data on French telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions. Snow­den also re­vealed that the U. S. had been mon­i­tor­ing the cell­phone com­mu­ni­ca­tions of Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel.

Af­ter the Merkel dis­clo­sures, Obama or­dered a re­view of NSA spy­ing on al­lies. Af­ter­ward, U. S. of­fi­cials said Obama had or­dered a halt to sur­veil­lance of the lead­ers of al­lied coun­tries and their aides.

The Wik­iLeaks web­site listed the con­tents of what it called “Es­pi­onnage El­y­see” ( El­y­see Spy­ing), a col­lec­tion of top se­cret in­tel­li­gence re­ports and tech­ni­cal data from five ma­jor in­ter­cepts of com­mu­ni­ca­tions in­volv­ing “high level of­fi­cials from suc­ces­sive French gov­ern­ments over the last 10 years,” in­clud­ing the three pres­i­dents.

Tran­scripts of eavesdropping on tele­phone con­ver­sa­tions and emails cov­ered sub­jects in­clud­ing a top United Na­tions ap­point­ment, the Mid­dle East peace process and the han­dling of the Greek debt cri­sis as well as the lead­er­ship and fu­ture of the Euro­pean Union.

One doc­u­ment re­port­edly shows phone num­bers listed by the NSA as top French of­fi­cial “in­ter­cept tar­gets,” in­clud­ing that of the pres­i­dent’s cell­phone, with some dig­its crossed out. Other se­nior of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing the El­y­see sec­re­tary gen­eral, the For­eign Min­istry spokesman, the pres­i­den­tial ad­vi­sor for Africa and the sec­re­tary of state for trade, also had their con­ver­sa­tions recorded, ac­cord- ing to the leaked doc­u­ments.

A pur­ported in­tel­li­gence re­port from March 2010 fol­lows an in­ter­cepted com­mu­ni­ca­tion from Sarkozy ex­press­ing his frus­tra­tion with U. S. spy­ing on France.

In another, from 2008, Sarkozy re­port­edly talks about the global eco­nomic cri­sis. “The 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,” the doc­u­ment says.

In the Na­tional Assem­bly on Wed­nes­day, Prime Min­is­ter Manuel Valls re­peated that the United States’ “sys­tem­atic and con­tin­ued spy­ing on the lead­ers of for­eign coun­tries” was “not le­git­i­mate, not ac­cept­able and not nor­mal.”

“This in­for­ma­tion is ex­tremely se­ri­ous,” Valls told law­mak­ers. “It’s not le­git­i­mate in the name of na­tional in­ter­ests to carry out eavesdropping — and, no, France does not spy on its Euro­pean part­ners or its al­lies.

“France will not tol­er­ate any schem­ing that threat­ens its se­cu­rity and fun­da­men­tal in­ter­est,” Valls added. He said the U. S. now had to make an ef­fort to “re­pair the dam­age” caused by the rev­e­la­tions.

U. S. Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil spokesman Ned Price said in a state­ment that the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment would not com­ment on the specifics of the leak.

“As a gen­eral mat­ter, 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,” he said.

French gov­ern­ment spokesman Stephane Le Foll said a se­nior French in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial was be­ing sent to the United States for talks with his coun­ter­parts.

The Wik­iLeaks rev­e­la­tions came just hours be­fore mem­bers of Par­lia­ment were ex­pected to ap­prove a bill giv­ing the French in­tel­li­gence ser­vices sweep­ing new pow­ers to snoop on their own peo­ple. Crit­ics have said the law would be a threat to in­di­vid­ual lib­er­ties, but the gov­ern­ment ar­gues the mea­sures are nec­es­sary af­ter the Jan­uary at­tacks in Paris by Is­lamist ex­trem­ists.

I an Langs­don Euro­pean Pressphoto Agency

FRENCH For­eign Min­is­ter Lau­rent Fabius dis­cusses what he called the “un­ac­cept­able” ac­tions.

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