Reports that NSA spied on presidents Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande branded “unacceptable” after emergency meeting
The French president warned that his country would not tolerate actions that threaten its security.
The warning came after an emergency meeting of ministers and army and intelligence commanders following revelations by the online whistleblower WikiLeaks that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had tapped the phones of Mr Hollande and his two predecessors, Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac.
The allegations that the US was spying on its close ally for political, economic and diplomatic intelligence have sparked a political storm in France, whose parliament is currently finalising a new bill that would give French intelligence agencies sweeping new powers to monitor phone metadata and online activities.
The Elysée, the president’s office, said that “these are unacceptable facts that have already arisen between the United States and France, particularly in late 2013 at the time of the first (spying) revelations during the state visit of the President of the Republic to the United States in February 2014.
Former French presidents Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy and French President Francois Hollande (AFP/Getty)
“At the time commitments were made by US authorities. They should be remembered and strictly observed,” said the statement issued after the emergency defence council meeting on Wednesday.
“France, which has further strengthened its control and protection, will not tolerate anything that could jeopardise the security and protection of his interests,” it said.
The French foreign ministry summoned the US ambassador to discuss the matter, a French diplomatic source said.
Late on Tuesday, Wikileaks published documents it says show that the National Security Agency spied on top French government figures from at least 2006 until 2012.
“The top secret documents derive from directly targeted NSA surveillance of the communications of French presidents François 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,” Wikileaks said in a statement.
The White House insisted on Tuesday it was not targeting Mr Hollande’s communications and will not do so, but it did not address what surveillance might have been done in the past.
The documents released by WikiLeaks – classed as “Top Secret” and first reported in partnership with French newspaper Liberation and the Mediapart website – also revealed that Mr Hollande approved secret meetings on the consequences of a Greek exit from the eurozone as early as 2012.
The documents show that the NSA was tapping the mobile phone numbers of numerous officials in the Elysée, up to and including the mobile phone line of the president, and those of the prime minister and other ministers.
French government spokesman Stephane Le Foll told iTELE television that “we find it hard to understand or imagine what motivates an ally to spy on allies who are often on the same strategic positions in world affairs.”
Claude Gueant, Mr Sarkozy’s former chief of staff and one of the reported targets of the NSA, told RTL radio: “Considering the very close relationship we have with the United States, considering the fact we are extremely loyal allies, I feel like trust has been broken.”