Skip to comments.President Barack Obama calls Paris to apologise for NSA
Posted on 10/23/2013 12:06:11 PM PDT by bkopto
FRANCE has demanded an explanation from Washington of a report that the US swept up 70 million French telephone records and text messages in its global surveillance net, even recording certain private conversations.
The fallout prompted a phone call yesterday from US President Barack Obama to French President Francois Hollande, and, the White House said, an acknowledgement by the US leader that the episode raised "legitimate questions for our friends and allies" about how surveillance capabilities are employed.
Mr Hollande's office issued a strongly worded statement afterward expressing "profound reprobation" over US actions it said intruded on the private lives of French citizens.
Spying among friendly countries is classic tradecraft but the sweep and scope of the National Security Agency program have surprised allies and raised indignation among those targeted - Germany, Mexico and Brazil among them.
The report in Monday's Le Monde - co-written by Glenn Greenwald, who revealed the surveillance program based on leaks from former NSA analyst Edward Snowden - found that when certain phone numbers were used, conversations were automatically recorded. The surveillance operation also gathered text messages based on key words.
"This sort of practice between partners that invades privacy is totally unacceptable and we have to make sure, very quickly, that this no longer happens," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said. "We fully agree that we co-operate to fight terrorism. It is indispensable.
"But this does not justify that personal data of millions of our compatriots are snooped on."
Seeking to limit damage in relations with one of America's closest allies, Mr Obama called Mr Hollande to make clear the US government was reviewing its intelligence-gathering "so that we properly balance the legitimate security concerns of our citizens and allies with the privacy concerns that all people share", a White House statement said.
The statement said some recent disclosures had "distorted our activities" while others had raised genuine concerns.
Earlier, the French government summoned US ambassador Charles Rivkin for answers. A statement issued by the US embassy in Paris said Mr Rivkin assured Alexandre Ziegler, chief of staff to Mr Fabius, that "our ongoing bilateral consultations on allegations of information-gathering by US government agencies would continue".
The level of the diplomatic consultation at the time - between the US ambassador and only an aide to Mr Fabius - suggested that France was modulating its response.
Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Paris on Monday for meetings on Middle East issues and could have been contacted at once if it appeared relations were in deeper trouble. But the matter was subsequently elevated with Mr Obama's phone call.
Mr Hollande's office said later that the French leader asked Mr Obama to make available all information on NSA spying of French communications.
Mr Kerry would not confirm the newspaper account or discuss intelligence-gathering except to say: "Lots of countries are engaged in the activity of trying to protect their citizens in the world."
Le Monde reported that, from December 10 last year to January 8 this year, 70.3 million recordings of French citizens' telephone data were made by the NSA. Intercepts peaked at almost 7 million in December 24 and again on January 7, the paper said.
The targets were people with suspected links to terrorism and those chosen because of their roles in business, politics or the French government, it said.
Former CIA officer Bob Baer, who was stationed in Paris for three years, said the French intelligence service regularly spied on American diplomats and businesspeople. That includes rifling through possessions in hotel rooms and installing listening devices in first-class seats of the now-defunct Concorde, to record American conversations, he said.
Hollande said he has to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
How are you going to do that Hoss???
You didn’t know it happened the first time until Snowden told you.
How do you propose to stop it from happening again?
If you take Obama’s word that it won’t happen again you are an idiot.
More than likely NSA id listening in to French phones right now, and German phones and British phones, and more than likely Russian phones.
He, Congress, and the Courts.
The asswipe has never apologized to American citizens for doing the same to us.
He hates us even more. Of course the feeling is mutual. And I ain’t apologizing for this post either.
I haven’t read the article but I’ll bet I can sum it up.
It was started under Bush, he wasn’t apprised it was going on and he’ll have it stopped immediately. That damn Bush !!
Regrets, apologize, regrets, apologize....blah blah
Wanna CD of my greatest hits?
How’d I do?
So he apologizes to the French but not us?
When a Republican is president?
Let me guess, he called to apologize on the receiver’s private, secure line that he wasn’t supposed to have access to!
I’m waiting for the President of Kenya to call me and apologize for Obama.