French hissy fit over U.S. espionage allegations

politics | Jun 24, 2015 | By Martin Barillas

The French Foreign Ministry called American ambassador Jane Hartley onto the carpet to answer for revelations made by WikiLeaks that the National Security Agency had been listening to the telephone conversations of three presidents of the French Republic and other officials. France’s top intelligence officer will soon visit the United States, reportedly to determine the U.S. is complying with an agreement made with the French Republic which followed earlier NSA spying revelations in 2013 and 2014.
 
Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the Obama administration must do everything it can to  quickly “repair the damage" to Franco-American relations. The WikiLeaks revelations, he said, are "a very serious violation of the spirit of trust" between the allies. "If the fact of the revelations today does not constitute a real surprise for anyone, that in no way lessens the emotion and the anger. They are legitimate. France will not tolerate any action threatening its security and fundamental interests," he said.   
 
Speaking for the French government, Stephane Le Foll told the media "France does not listen in on its allies." He added, "we reminded all (government) ministers to be vigilant in their conversations." So far, no word has come from the American embassy in Paris, which reportedly had a floor filled with spying equipment hidden behind trompe l'oeil paintings of windows, said leftist Liberation newspaper. On the evening of June 23, however, Ned Price of the National Security Council sought to give assurances that the U.S. is currently "not targeting and will not target the communications of President Hollande." However, he did not speak to theories that the U.S. intelligence agencies had listened in on Hollande or his precedessors such as Nicholas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac. 
 
The revelations coincided with a vote on June 24 in the French parliament that gives the state greater surveillance powers, especially in the area of counter-terrorism. French President Francois Hollande angrily called U.S. espionage “unacceptable.” He also held emergency meetings with top French security agency officials and members of the parliament. Hollande is scheduled to speak with President Barack Obama on June 24.
 
The leaked documents appear to have recorded the conversations of two top French officials in the United States in the years 2006-2012. The French officials are recorded speaking their minds about ailing Greece, Franco-German relations, and U.S. espionage. The documents were released on June 23. 

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