Monday brought further revelations of the United States’ National Security Agency’s surveillance abroad, with two separate reports revealing the spy agency’s activities in France and Mexico.
France summoned the US ambassador to protest the latest reports on mass surveillance. But the White House brushed off the French complaints, saying “all nations” spy.
“As a matter of policy we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden was quoted as saying.
French newspaper Le Monde reported that “telephone communications of French citizens are intercepted on a massive scale,” based on documents obtained by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
“Le Monde has been able to obtain access to documents which describe the techniques used to violate the secrets or simply the private life of French people,” the newspaper wrote.
According to the report, from the period of Dec. 10, 2012 to Jan. 8, 2013, the NSA made 70.3 million phone recordings of French citizens. Le Monde wrote that when a certain phone number is dialed in France, “it activates a signal which automatically triggers the recording of the call,” under the program dubbed US-985D.
As for the targeting of individuals, Le Monde wrote that while some were singled out for suspected links to terrorism, others were “targeted simply because they belong to the worlds of business, politics or French state administration.”
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said he was “deeply shocked” by the report.
“It’s incredible that an allied country like the United States at this point goes as far as spying on private communications that have no strategic justification, no justification on the basis of national defence,” Ayrault was quoted as saying.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he had summoned the US ambassador.
“The ambassador expressed his appreciation of the importance of the exchange, and promised to convey the points made back to Washington,” the US Embassy in Paris said in a statementafter the meeting took place.
France’s interior minister, Manuel Valls, said on Europe 1 radio: “If an allied country spies on France or spies on other European countries, that’s totally unacceptable.”
The BBC’s correspondent noted that the French government has itself been accused of similar surveillance on its own citizens. Le Monde reported in July that massive amounts of personal data, including emails, texts and telephone and internet records were stored by the French government for years.
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France isn’t the only country incensed with the NSA’s spying.
German weekly magazine Der Spiegel published more information about the NSA eavesdropping on Mexico’s current and former presidents. Breaking into their emails provided the US spy agency with “diplomatic, economic and leadership communications, which continue to provide insight into Mexico’s political system and internal stability.”
Mexico’s current President Enrique Pena Nieto has summoned the US ambassador and called for an investigation.
The Der Spiegel report found that the NSA intercepted 85,489 text messages sent by Pena Nieto and his close associates.
The Washington agency is also alleged to have snooped on emails of Former President Felipe Calderon. Der Spiegel noted that Calderon worked “more closely with Washington than any other Mexican president before him.”
Reports from earlier this summer alleged that the NSA had intercepted Pena Nieto’s emails and other communication, while he was campaigning for the presidency. At the time, the Mexican government demanded an investigation and explanation.
This time, the response is not as restrained.
“This practice is unacceptable, illegitimate and contrary to Mexican law and international law,” Mexico’s foreign ministry said in a statement on Sunday. “In a relationship between neighbors and partners there is no room for the practices that allegedly took place.”
The NSA, when contacted by Der Spiegel, said:
“We are not going to comment publicly on every specific alleged intelligence activity, and as a matter of policy we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations.
“As the president said in his speech at the UN General Assembly, we’ve begun to review the way that we gather intelligence, so that we properly balance the legitimate security concerns of our citizens and allies with the privacy concerns that all people share.”
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