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Obama, French president on NSA: You say potato, I say pomme de terre

Let’s call the whole thing off.

As part of its effort to keep journalists up to date, the White House sends me (and, one presumes, a select few of my fellow ink-stained wretches) approximately one jillion e-mails a day, consisting of press releases, texts of speeches, announcements of executive appointments and a whole bunch more categories, including what it calls a “readout” of a phone conversation between the president and a foreign leader.

Pretty much all such “readouts” have been sanitized to the point of being utterly without news value. So it was with the White House-issued readout of a conversation Wednesday between President Obama and French President Francois Hollande, in which the two allies discussed the recent  Edward Snowden-related disclosure that the the U.S. National Security Agency had “swept up 70 million French telephone records and text messages and recorded some private conversations.”

What made this “readout” more interesting was that, as it turns out, the office of the French president also issues a “readout” on such occasions and USA Today took the initiative of translating the French version. The comparison was slightly humorous. For example:

The White House readout says: “The United States and France are allies and friends, and share a close working relationship on a wide range of issues, including security and intelligence.”

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The French readout: “The Head of State shared his deep disapproval regarding these practices, which are unacceptable between allies and friends, because they violate the privacy of French citizens.”

Also from USA Today’s comparison of the “readouts:”

The United States said that Obama and Hollande “discussed recent disclosures in the press — some of which have distorted our activities and some of which raise legitimate questions for our friends and allies about how these capabilities are employed.”

The French said Hollande asked Obama for “a full accounting (of the reported spying) as well as all of the information that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden might have in his possession.”