22 October 2016
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange promised to release more "important revelations" soon. Photo: Reuters
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange promised to release more "important revelations" soon. Photo: Reuters

NSA spied on three French presidents: WikiLeaks

The US National Security Agency spied on French presidents Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande from 2006 to 2012, WikiLeaks said in a press statement, citing top secret intelligence reports and technical documents.

WikiLeaks, a whistleblower website, said the documents derived from directly targeted NSA surveillance of the communications of the three presidents during their terms of office, as well as French cabinet ministers and the French ambassador to the United States, Reuters reported.

According to the documents, Sarkozy is said to have considered restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks without US involvement and Hollande feared a Greek euro zone exit back in 2012.

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

Hollande’s office said the president plans to meet with his defense committee on Wednesday to discuss the WikiLeaks statement.

The latest revelations regarding spying among allied Western countries come after it emerged that the NSA had spied on Germany and Germany’s own BND intelligence agency had cooperated with the NSA to spy on officials and companies elsewhere in Europe.

“The French people have a right to know that their elected government is subject to hostile surveillance from a supposed ally,” WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said in the statement, adding that more “important revelations” would soon follow.

The documents include summaries of conversations between French government officials on the global financial crisis, the future of the European Union, the relationship between Hollande’s administration and Merkel’s government, French efforts to determine the make-up of the executive staff of the United Nations, and a dispute between the French and US governments over US spying on France.

The documents also contained the cellphone numbers of numerous officials in the Elysee presidential palace including the direct cellphone of the president, WikiLeaks said.

Last week, WikiLeaks published more than 60,000 diplomatic cables from Saudi Arabia and said on its website it would release half a million more in the coming weeks.

Former NSA employee Edward Snowden created an uproar in Germany after he revealed that Washington had carried out large-scale electronic espionage in Germany and claimed the NSA had bugged Merkel’s phone.

“While the German disclosures focused on the isolated fact that senior officials were targeted by US intelligence, WikiLeaks’ publication today provides much greater insight into US spying on its allies,” WikiLeaks said.

This includes “the actual content of intelligence products deriving from the intercepts, showing how the US spies on the phone calls of French leaders and ministers for political, economic and diplomatic intelligence”.

WikiLeaks said NSA intercepts showed that Hollande called a secret meeting of his cabinet about the potential consequences of a Greek exit from the euro zone as early as May 2012.

It also said the Socialist Hollande, who at that point had been in power a few days, had been disappointed by a first meeting as president with conservative German Chancellor Angela Merkel and requested talks with leaders of the Social Democratic Party, her center-left junior coalition partner.

In another intercept dated June 10, 2011, Sarkozy is said to have considered restarting Israeli-Palestinian peace talks without US involvement.

An earlier one from 2008 has Sarkozy, widely considered in France to be pro-American, being critical of the US government’s handling of the financial crisis.

“The president blamed many of the current economic problems on mistakes made by the US government, but believes that Washington is now heeding some of his advice,” it said.

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