Prime Minister demands to know why the US spy agency recorded more than 70 million French phone calls in 30 days
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault has demanded an explanation from the Obama administration, after it emerged that the US National Security Agency (NSA) has stored information about more than 70 million phone calls made in France between 10 December 2012 and 8 January 2013.
According to Le Monde, which quoted documents provided by former NSA security consultant Edward Snowden, a programme called “US-985D” allowed the US agency to monitor not just terrorism suspects but also businesses and government officials. The same programme collected millions of text messages.
According to the French newspaper, US-985D automatically records certain conversations using techniques codenamed “DRTBOX” and “WHITEBOX”. There is no information on whether it stores entire calls, or just the metadata.
The acronyms used by the NSA for the same type of interception in Germany are “US-987LA” and “US-987LB.”
After the information went public, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius had called in the US ambassador Charles Rivkin to discuss US surveillance practices. Later, Prime Minister Ayrault said he was “shocked” by the revelations, demanded “clear answers” about the extent of the US data collection in France, and called for termination of any US spying programmes on French soil.
Meanwhile, in an interview on Monday morning, French Interior Minister Manuel Valls described NSA practices as “totally unacceptable” and also requested more information about the mysterious programme.
France has previously criticized the US over projects like PRISM and xKeyscore, even calling for the suspension of talks related to an international trade deal.
Earlier this year, Le Monde revealed the details of France’s own spy programmes, in which the General Directorate of External Security (DGSE) collects metadata on emails, phone calls and social media use in the country. These activities are similar to the PRISM programme run by the NSA, and have been branded illegal by the French privacy regulator, CNIL.
Not to be outdone by their American colleagues, DGSE saved four billion pieces of communication in 2013.
It also emerged on Monday that the NSA successfully hacked into the emails of the former Mexican president and other government staff.
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