24 Jun 2015

Wikileaks revelations trigger France-US spying row

The US ambassador to France is called in to explain documents released by Wikileaks that show the US authorities were spying on French President Francois Hollande and two of his predecessors.

The revelations that the US was apparently spying on the past three French Presidents have caused a political storm in France.

However, following a phone call between the US president and Francois Hollande, the French president’s office said “President Obama reiterated unequivocally his firm commitment.. to end the practices that may have happened in the past and are considered unacceptable among allies.”

Right to be concerned

The documents, apparently produced by America’s National Security Agency (NSA), cover a period at least from 2006 to May 2012.

In a top secret report dated 24 March 2010, the US intelligence service outlined “sensitive issues on the agenda when French, US Presidents meet next week in Washington”.

Extract from the document released by Wikileaks

Presumably acquired by covert means, the account of a conversation between President Sarkozy’s ambassador in Washington, Pierre Vimont, and his diplomatic adviser, Jean-David Levitte, notes – apparently without irony – that the two men believe “the main sticking point is the US desire to continue spying on France.”

President Sarkozy, the document says, would use the meeting to “express his frustration that Washington has backed away from” a proposed intelligence co-operation between the two countries.

Edwy Plenel, of the investigative website Mediapart which published the documents, told a press conference in Paris that the US had put under surveillance the political, diplomatic and economic spheres of French public life “in a factory-like and systematic manner.”

The new documents also reveal the US assessment of President Sarkozy’s state of mind during the world economic crisis.

Sarkozy to the rescue

In 2008 an NSA document released by Wikileaks claims that President Sarkozy “blamed many of the current economic problems on mistakes made by the US goverment.”

Entitled “Sarkozy sees himself as only one who can resolve world financial crisis”, the document notes that Mr Sarkozy “believes that Washington is now heeding some of his advice”, adding: “in his view, this is the first time that the US has not taken the lead in managing a global crisis, and France will now take the helm.”

Further documents released by Wikileaks detail a conversation about the Middle East between President Sarkozy and his Foreign Minister Alain Juppe and a 2006 conversation between President Jacques Chirac and his Foreign Minister Philippe Doust-Blazy about who should get what job at the United Nations.