François Hollande, Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac were all targets of eavesdropping.
Following the German wiretapping scandal, the U.S. National Security Agency was caught wiretapping yet another ally; this time it was France. Days ago, the whistleblower site WikiLeaks published a series of classified documents claiming that French Presidents Chirac, Sarkozy and Hollande have all been spied on by the NSA at least between 2006 and May 2012. Content includes classified information related to the policy-making process in response to the last Greek debt crisis. The incident has shocked all levels of French society to the core, National Assembly of France lawmaker Jean-Jacques Urvoas expressed: It just goes to show that “the U.S. has no allies.”
The newest leaks have exposed a total of five classified documents from the Elysee Palace, which were all classified as “top secret,” after intelligence officers wiretapped the three French presidents. The document containing a comprehensive analysis of their conversations, characterized the three men’s styles of governing and policy-making. The report left out that, of the five classified documents, only two were shared between members of the Five Eyes, (the FVEY alliance between the U.S., the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada); the others were all used exclusively by the U.S. side to be read by high-level authorities within the NSA and intelligence channels.
Multiple Departments Monitored; French-U.S. Bilateral Relations Compromised
The documents were published simultaneously in the French left-wing daily newspapers La Liberation and MediaPart, with the latest of them being published on May 22, 2012, which was current French President François Hollande’s first week in office. The documents contain information about a rendezvous between Hollande and incumbent Prime Minister John-Marc Ayrault, in which the two agreed to convene a secret meeting to discuss the ramifications of Greece’s possible defection from the Eurozone, as well as demanding a covert audience with members of Germany’s opposition party. The documents detail Hollande’s insistence that the meeting be kept secret, in order to avoid the outside world believing that France was considering pulling out of the Eurozone with Greece.
Another classified document dated 2008 detailed then-President Sarkozy resigning himself to being “the one who has to solve the financial crisis.”* A 2006 document recorded the arrangements of then-President Chirac’s appointment to the United Nations delegation.
Local French media commentators believe that this issue clearly demonstrates America’s suspicion and lack of trust of its own allies, and French-American relations, even European-American relations, will certainly take a pounding and ultimately backslide. The report points out that although the classified documents did not reveal many French national secrets, it still illustrates that the NSA’s eavesdropping on the French government is a cold, hard fact. La Liberation believes that although the exact amount of classified intelligence seized by the U.S. cannot be exactly ascertained, judging by the actual content of the classified documents, it is certain that the U.S. eavesdropped on three consecutive French presidents, important cabinet members, and French ambassadors stationed in America through their mobile phones, as well as the French Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Defense and National Security Secretarial Office through their land lines.
France’s Summons of American Ambassadors Denied by White House
This issue has aroused a high level of concern in the French public; Hollande called a meeting of the French National Defense Ministry the following day, while the NSA’s behavior was criticized by the Elysee Palace, calling it “intolerable,” demanding that the U.S. strictly abide by previous promises. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius demanded an audience with U.S. ambassadors stationed in France the following day and sent high-level intelligence officials to the U.S. to gather more information about the incident. French Ambassador to the U.S. Gerald Araud tried to cool the incident, remarking, “Every diplomat knows that he or she will be eavesdropped on, and not only by one country. This is just a fact.”*
The French Socialist Party called Washington’s systematic spying of its own allies “stupefying.” Sarkozy’s aides stated that these kinds of eavesdropping methods were unacceptable, while Chirac was unable to be reached for comment. Hollande phoned Obama the day before this report to discuss the situation. French Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared that America must do everything within its power to mend fences with France.
A White House National Security Commission spokesperson who was contacted the previous evening was unable to confirm the validity of the classified documents, but commented that Washington would not be wiretapping Hollande again, “not now nor in the future,”* adding that French-American relations were indispensable. The U.S. State Department declined to comment on the situation.
*Editor's note: Translated correctly, this quotation could not be verified.