Lawmaker: Presidents Barack Obama and François Hollande to discuss spying claims
"We are not targeting and will not target the communications of President Hollande," U.S. spokesman says
France says it previously sought clarification from U.S. about what it calls "unacceptable facts"
France has summoned the U.S. ambassador for a meeting Wednesday in the wake of reports that the United States spied on French President François Hollande and his two predecessors – despite France being a close ally.
WikiLeaks has published what it said were U.S. National Security Agency reports about secret communications of the last three French presidents between 2006 and 2012.
France won’t tolerate “any action jeopardizing its security and the protection of its interests,” the country’s Defense Council said in a statement Wednesday. But it suggested it was already well aware of the spying allegations.
“These unacceptable facts already resulted in clarifications between France and the United States” in 2013 and 2014, the Defense Council said.
“Commitments were made by the American authorities,” the council said. “They must be recalled and strictly respected.”
Hollande had convened a meeting of the council after reports appeared in the French press about the information released by WikiLeaks.
Amid French anger over the latest revelations, the U.S. ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, has been summoned to appear at the French Foreign Ministry at 6 p.m. local time (noon ET).
Hollande and U.S. President Barack Obama also will speak by telephone about the spying claims at some point Wednesday, Claude Bartolone, president of France’s National Assembly, told CNN affiliate BFMTV.
Responding to the reports late Tuesday, the White House’s National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said: “We are not targeting and will not target the communications of President Hollande.
“Indeed, as we have said previously, 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.
“We work closely with France on all matters of international concern, and the French are indispensable partners.”
French government spokesman and Agriculture Minister Stéphane Le Foll said France was taking three immediate steps in response to the latest allegations.
Besides summoning the U.S. ambassador, leading French lawmakers have been invited to a debriefing session at the Élysée, or presidential palace, he said.
France’s intelligence coordinator will be sent to the United States to discuss the measures already agreed between the two nations. In addition, Prime Minister Manuel Valls will answer a question from lawmakers Wednesday afternoon at the National Assembly, Le Foll said.
Assange: ‘Hostile surveillance’
French newspaper Libération and online outlet Mediapart cited five NSA reports published by WikiLeaks on Tuesday and purportedly pulled from intercepted communications of former Presidents Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy as well as Hollande and other French figures.
According to a WikiLeaks news release, the cache of “top secret” documents includes “intelligence summaries of conversations between French government officials concerning some of the most pressing issues facing France and the international community.”
These include “the global financial crisis, the Greek debt crisis, the leadership and future of the European Union, the relationship between the Hollande administration and the German government of Angela Merkel, French efforts to determine the make-up of the executive staff of the United Nations, French involvement in the conflict in Palestine and a dispute between the French and US governments over US spying on France.”
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said the French people “have a right to know that their elected government is subject to hostile surveillance from a supposed ally.”
WikiLeaks is proud of its work with Libération and Mediapart to bring the story to light, Assange said, adding that “French readers can expect more timely and important revelations in the near future.”
Responding to the reports, the party led by Sarkozy said in a statement that France was a great country that must be respected.
Much as cooperation between allies’ intelligence services is crucial against a common enemy, it is “unacceptable” that such intelligence tools are turned against an ally, it said.
“It is unbearable that three successive presidents, their advisers, their ministers could have been regularly spied on for a decade by at least one of the 17 American intelligence agencies,” the statement said.
Sarkozy’s party, formerly the UMP, was recently renamed Les Républicains. The UMP was also the party of Chirac.
France is a longstanding ally of the United States and, as a fellow permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and NATO, a key partner in international diplomacy. U.S. President Barack Obama earlier this year referred to France as “America’s oldest ally.”
But these are not the first reports alleging U.S. espionage against its friends.
In 2013, Le Monde reported that the NSA had monitored phone calls made in France, citing documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden to WikiLeaks. That surveillance was conducted on French citizens and carried out on a “massive scale,” as reported by Le Monde.
Those particular phone intercepts took place from December 10, 2012, to January 8, 2013, Le Monde said. An NSA graph showed an average of 3 million data intercepts a day.
Also in 2013, CNN reported on allegations of NSA surveillance of other world leaders, including Merkel and the presidents of Brazil and Mexico.
CNN’s Noisette Martel, Sandrine Amiel, Sarah Oulahna, Kevin Liptak, Margot Haddad, David Lindsay, Sara Mazloumsaki and Jennifer Z. Deaton contributed to this report.