(CNN) -- The U.S. ambassador to France met with
French diplomats Monday over allegations that the National Security
Agency intercepted more than 70 million phone calls in France over a
Ambassador Charles Rivkin
was summoned to the French Foreign Ministry in Paris after the details
of the alleged spying appeared in the French newspaper Le Monde.
"These kinds of practices
between partners, that violate privacy, are totally unacceptable,"
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters at an EU foreign
ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Monday. "We must quickly assure that
these practices aren't repeated."
U.S. President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande spoke Monday, according to a White House statement.
"The President and
President Hollande discussed recent disclosures in the press -- some of
which have distorted our activities and some of which raise legitimate
questions for our friends and allies about how these capabilities are
employed," the news release said. "The President made clear that the
United States has 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."
Earlier, U.S. Secretary
of State John Kerry, who was in Paris and met with the Qatari foreign
minister, wouldn't address the specifics of the report, but told
reporters that France is one of the U.S.'s closest allies. He added that
the countries work together to protect the security of their citizens,
which is a "very complicated task" in today's world.
Kerry said "lots of
countries" engage in intelligence activities to try to prevent terrorist
attacks. He said Rivkin would would continue consultations with the
The National Security
Agency monitored the phone calls made in France, Le Monde reported
Monday, citing documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
"Telephone communications of French citizens are intercepted on a massive scale," Le Monde said in its online English edition.
The intercepts took
place from December 10, 2012, to January 8, 2013, the article reported.
An NSA graph shows an average of 3 million data intercepts a day.
According to Le Monde,
this is how the system worked: "When a telephone number is used in
France, it activates a signal which automatically triggers the recording
of the call. Apparently this surveillance system also picks up SMS
(text) messages and their content using key words. Finally, the NSA
apparently stores the history of the connections of each target -- or
It wasn't immediately clear from the article if the conversations were recorded or just the data surrounding each call.
Other spying allegations
The report comes a day
after the German news magazine Der Spiegel said the NSA "systematically"
eavesdropped on the Mexican government. It hacked the public e-mail
account of former Mexican President Felipe Calderon, which was also used
by Cabinet members, according to Der Spiegel.
The magazine also quoted documents leaked by Snowden.
"This practice is
unacceptable, illegitimate and against Mexican and international law,"
Mexico's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
It added that it would push for a speedy investigation.
"In a relationship
between neighbors and partners, there is no room for the practices
alleged to have taken place," the ministry said.
A senior U.S. State
Department official told CNN that the Mexican government reached out
about the report and that the two governments will be discussing it via
The NSA said it would
not "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 U.N. 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," the agency added.
In September, Mexico and
Brazil summoned U.S. ambassadors after media reports that the United
States had spied on their countries' presidents.
A Brazilian news report
described the alleged espionage, citing Glenn Greenwald, a Brazil-based
journalist who similarly obtained documents from Snowden.
One of the alleged NSA
documents leaked to Greenwald dates from June 2012, a month before
Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto was elected. In it, the candidate
talks about whom he would select for his Cabinet if elected.
The documents did not
reference any specific communications with Brazilian President Dilma
Rousseff but show the methods the NSA allegedly used to track e-mails
and mobile phone communications with close advisers.
"It was very clear in
the documents that they had already carried out the spying," Greenwald
told Globo TV's Sunday night program "Fantastico." "They aren't talking
about something they are planning; they are celebrating their spying
The United States could lose access to an important law enforcement
tool used to track terrorist money flows, German officials said Monday,
as Europe weighs a response to allegations that the Americans spied on
their closest European allies.
Spain became the latest U.S. ally to demand answers after a Spanish
newspaper reported that the National Security Agency monitored more than
60 million phone calls in that country during one month alone. The
report Monday in the daily El Mundo came on the heels of allegations of
massive NSA spying in France and Germany, including Chancellor Angela
Merkel’s own cellphone.
With European leaders dissatisfied with the U.S. response so far,
officials have been casting about for a way to pressure Washington to
provide details of past surveillance and assurances that the practice
will be curbed. The challenge is to send a strong message to Washington
against wholesale spying on European citizens and institutions without
further damage to the overall trans-Atlantic relationship.
As possible leverage, German authorities cited last week’s
non-binding resolution by the European Parliament to suspend a post-9/11
agreement allowing the Americans access to bank transfer data to track
the flow of terrorist money.
German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said
Monday she believed the Americans were using the information to gather
economic intelligence apart from terrorism and that the deal, popularly
known as the SWIFT agreement, should be suspended. That would represent a
sharp rebuke to the United States from some of its closest partners.
“It really isn’t enough to be outraged,” she told rbb-Inforadio.
“This would be a signal that something can happen and make clear to the
Americans that the (EU’s) policy is changing.”
Suspending the agreement, officially known as the Terrorist Finance
Tracking Program, would require approval by an overwhelming majority of
the 28 European Union countries. The agreement allows access to funds
transferred through the private, Belgium-based Society for Worldwide
Interbank Financial Telecommunication, which handles the movement of
money between banks worldwide.
Asked Monday if the NSA intelligence gathering had been used not only
to protect national security but American economic interests as well,
White House spokesman Jay Carney said: “We do not use our intelligence
capabilities for that purpose. We use it for security purposes.”
Still, he acknowledged the tensions with allies over the
eavesdropping disclosures and said the White House was “working to allay
those concerns,” though he refused to discuss any specific reports or
provide details of internal White House discussions.
The German justice minister’s comments follow days of vocal
indignation in Berlin after German news weekly Der Spiegel reported the
NSA had kept tabs on Merkel’s phone calls since as early as 2002, three
years before she became chancellor.
Merkel said Friday that she was open to the idea of suspending the
SWIFT agreement, saying she “needed to look at this again more closely”
and weigh “what we will lose for the security of our citizens and what
Germany and other European governments have made clear they don’t
favor suspending the U.S.-EU trade talks which began last summer because
both sides stand to gain so much through the proposed deal, especially
against competition from China and other emerging markets.
Still, the Europeans have said they will insist that the trade
agreement includes stronger rules for protecting data as a result of the
NSA allegations. Data protection laws in Europe are generally stronger
than in the United States.
“It’s obvious to us that we have to and will bring our European
convictions regarding data protection, and protection of privacy and
business information, into these negotiations,” Merkel’s spokesman
Steffen Seibert told reporters in Berlin on Monday.
The European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee chairman, Elmar
Brok, told reporters that failure to resolve the differences over data
protection could threaten the trade talks. Brok, a member of Merkel’s
party who was in Washington to discuss the spy allegations, said the
challenge was to strike a balance between security and personal freedom.
“We are fighting for the rights of our citizens,” he said.
The steady drumbeat of reports stemming from documents provided to
various media by NSA leaker Edward Snowden has created a sense of
urgency among European governments that, at the very least, they need to
be seen in the eyes of their citizens to be doing something to stop the
At the same time, European leaders are anxious to avoid lasting
damage in relations with their major ally. So far the issue has not hurt
President Barack Obama politically within the United States because
Republicans have blamed Snowden rather than the White House for the
In the latest allegation, the Spanish newspaper El Mundo published a
document it said showed the NSA had eavesdropped on more than 60 million
phone calls in Spain between Dec. 10, 2012 and Jan. 8, 2013. The U.S.
ambassador to Spain was summoned to the Foreign Ministry for an
Still, Florentino Portero, a political analyst at Madrid’s Open
University, said Spain’s response to the allegations wasn’t as strong as
it could have been because of the country’s ties with the U.S.,
especially intelligence sharing.
“The Spanish government doesn’t want to create a crisis with the
United States based on these leaks,” he told The Associated Press.
Madrid is wary of endangering the U.S. military presence in Spain at
two bases, Portero said. The U.S. is boosting its presence there as part
of a missile defense system, and both Spanish and American officials
have stressed that this will give Spain an economic boost as it
struggles with unemployment of 26 percent following years of recession.
But Heather Conley, Europe director for Washington-based Center for
Strategic and International Studies, said that for Germany, at least,
the situation appeared to have reached tipping point and for now other
European countries were willing to follow Berlin’s lead.
German intelligence officials are to travel to Washington this week and expect something tangible to bring home, she said.
“If they leave empty-handed, we’ve got a big problem,” Conley said.
You cannot post new topics in this forum You cannot reply to topics in this forum You cannot delete your posts in this forum You cannot edit your posts in this forum You cannot create polls in this forum You cannot vote in polls in this forum