Oct. 21 (Bloomberg) -- The French government expressed outrage at a report that the U.S. National Security Agency eavesdropped on millions of phone calls inside France and demanded that the U.S. halt the spying.
The Foreign Ministry in Paris summoned the U.S. ambassador after Le Monde, using documents disclosed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, reported that the U.S. intercepted and recorded 70.3 million bits of “telecommunications data” from Dec. 10, 2012, to Jan. 8, 2013.
“This type of practice between partners that intrudes on the private sphere is totally unacceptable,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters in Luxembourg today. “We have to see to it very quickly that this practice ceases.”
Fabius is due to meet tomorrow with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who was in Paris for talks held today with Arab foreign ministers to discuss Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. Kerry said he and his French counterpart will discuss this issue just as they work closely on many other matters.
While saying he couldn’t comment on U.S. intelligence activities, Kerry said “lots of countries are engaged in the activity of trying to protect their citizens and the world.”
“Protecting the security of our citizens in today’s world is a very complicated, very challenging task and it is an every day, 24-7-365 task, unfortunately, because it there are lots of people out there seeking to do harm to other people,” Kerry said. President Barack Obama told the United Nations General Assembly that the U.S. is reviewing how it conducts its electronic intelligence activities, Kerry said.
Allegations based on data provided by Snowden, who was granted asylum by Russia as he faces espionage charges in the U.S., have stirred tensions between the U.S. and countries including Germany and Brazil. Mexico’s government condemned the alleged hacking of the e-mail account of then-President Felipe Calderon in 2010, saying such actions are unacceptable and violate international law.
U.S. Ambassador Charles Rivkin met today with Fabius’s chief of staff.
“We demanded that a tangible response to our concerns be forthcoming as soon as possible,” according to a ministry statement.
Kerry’s meeting tomorrow with Fabius “will mostly be about the situation in Syria and other regional matters, but this issue will also be discussed,” the ministry said in the statement, referring to alleged spying.
Le Monde said NSA targets included undersea cables and Internet infrastructure operated by Alcatel-Lucent SA and Wanadoo, now owned by Orange SA.
“Orange is working actively hand-in-hand with the French government,” said Estelle Ode-Coutard, a Paris-based spokeswoman for the company. Valerie La Gamba, a spokeswoman for Alcatel-Lucent, declined to comment in an e-mail.
In Mexico, the foreign ministry yesterday reiterated a call for the Obama administration to conduct an exhaustive investigation of NSA conduct.
“In a relationship between neighbors and partners, there’s no room for the practices that allegedly took place,” according to an e-mailed statement.
To contact the reporter on this story: James G. Neuger in Brussels at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at email@example.com