Obama in crisis call with French president after Wikileaks documents reveal NSA spied on him and two of his predecessors
- WikiLeaks published documents on Tuesday which show the U.S. National Security Agency eavesdropped on the last three French presidents
- The American government has refused to comment on the leak
- An unnamed spokesperson for Nicolas Sarkosy said the former president considers eavesdropping unacceptable – especially from an ally
- U.S. is known to have been using the digital spying agency to intercept the conversations of allied politicians since 2013 leeks by Edward Snowden
Obama has personally called his French counterpart to reiterate his promise to stop spying tactics considered ‘unacceptable to allies’ after Wikileaks documents revealed the U.S. National Security Agency has eavesdropped on the country’s last three presidents.
The crisis call was made this afternoon, after the documents were released last night claiming the U.S. has listened in on current president Francois Hollande, and predecessors Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac over a six year period.
The revelation led to the offices of President Hollande saying ‘will not tolerate any acts that threaten its security’, as his own party decried it as ‘truly stupefying state paranoia’.
President Obama and the first lady welcome French President Francois Hollande during an official state visit in February 2014: WikiLeaks revealed on Tuesday that the National Security Agency has been eavesdropped on the past three French presidents
Meanwhile, senior French intelligence officials are also said to be heading to the U.S. ‘soon’.
U.S. spies are said to have obtained the Socialist head of state’s classified mobile phone number, and listened in to highly sensitive conversations.
Speaking this morning, Hollande’s office added: ‘Commitments were made by the US authorities [in late 2013 not to spy on France’s leaders].
‘They must be remembered and strictly respected.’
U.S. Ambassador Jane Hartley was also summoned to the French Foreign Ministry, where she promised to provide quick responses to French concerns, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.
He said he understood eavesdropping for counter-terrorist reasons, but added: ‘This has nothing to do with that.’
The statements came after an emergency defence council meeting took place on Wednesday morning to ‘evaluate the nature of the information published’.
Hollande was joined by his closest security chiefs to discuss the revelations by online whisteblower WikiLeaks.
Hollande’s Socialist Party issued an angry statement saying the reports suggest ‘a truly stupefying state paranoia’.
Even if the government was aware of such intercepts, the party said, that doesn’t mean ‘that this massive, systematic, uncontrolled eavesdropping is tolerable’.
The US Ambassador to France Jane Hartley, right, leaves the office of the French foreign minister after being summoned there earlier today
Prime Minister Manuel Valls, speaking to legislators this afternoon, said: ‘If the fact of the revelations today does not constitute a real surprise for anyone, that in no way lessens the emotion and the anger. They are legitimate. France will not tolerate any action threatening its security and fundamental interests.’
WikiLeaks posted documents classified ‘top secret’ showing that America’s National Security Agency (NSA) carried out the surveillance for at least six years from 2006.
WikiLeaks said in a statement: ‘The top secret documents derive from directly targeted NSA surveillance of the communications of French Presidents Francois Hollande (2012–present), Nicolas Sarkozy (2007–2012), and Jacques Chirac (1995–2007), as well as French cabinet ministers and the French Ambassador to the United States.’
There are NSA summaries of conversations between the French on subjects such as the global financial crisis of 2008, the Greek debt crisis, and the future of the European Union.
Others detail a talk about the relationship between the Mr Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government.
As well as Hollande’s number, the documents contain those of a number of senior French officials.
France famously opposed the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, but has otherwise tried to remain on good terms with one of its oldest allies, to the extent that the two countries have spoken of a ‘Special Relationship’.
This status will be threatened if – as expected – the WikiLeaks revelations turn into a full blown diplomatic incident. Responding to the drama, a statement from the White House National Security Council reads: ‘We are not going to comment on specific intelligence allegations.
‘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.
An aide to Hollande’s predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy told the AP that the former president considers these methods unacceptable, generally speaking and especially from an ally. The aide was not authorized to be publicly named.
Ever since documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden showed in 2013 that the NSA had been eavesdropping on the cellphone of Angela Merkel, it had been understood that the U.S. had been using the digital spying agency to intercept the conversations of allied politicians.
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