Saturday 06 July 2013
France accused of spying on its own people in Paris version of Prism
The French government spies on its own citizens in the same way as the United States, it was claimed on Thursday.
The French authorities do not note the content of the communications, the newspaper claims Photo: Bloomberg
7:46PM BST 04 Jul 2013
All phone calls, emails, text messages, faxes and internet searches are monitored by the French security services – the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE), according to a report in French newspaperLe Monde. The practice is illegal.
The epicentre of the spying operation is a three-storey underground bunker in Paris’ 20th arrondissement, at the DGSE’s headquarters on Boulevard Mortier. The building contains a “supercalculator capable of managing tens of millions of gigaoctets of information.”
The French authorities do not note the content of the communications, the newspaper claims, but instead are interested in establishing links between known figures in a terrorist network.
“The politicians know about it, but secrecy is the rule: this French Big Brother is clandestine,” wrote Jacques Follorou and Franck Johannes. “It is out of control.”
The series of revelations will be highly embarrassing to Francois Hollande, the French president, who has expressed outrage at American interception of French communications.
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“We cannot accept this kind of behaviour between partners and allies,” Mr Hollande said last week. “We ask that this immediately must stop.”
The United States has proposed holding talks on Monday “on the collection and oversight of intelligence, and questions of privacy and data protection,” in an attempt to quell the anger.
Yet on Thursday, as Manuel Valls, the interior minister, was telling guests at the American Ambassador’s July 4 party in Paris that such spying was unacceptable, it was alleged that France was doing the same.
France’s National Commission for Information and Liberty (CNIL) denied that it was engaged in illicit work.
But others were adamant that France was spying on people in exactly the same way as the Americans.
“Welcome to the age in which we are all under virtual authorisation,” said one former employee. “And each government agency makes the most of it.”
The activities described are similar to those carried out by America’s National Security Agency, as described in documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
The documents revealed that the NSA has access to vast amounts of internet data such as emails, chat rooms and video from large companies such as Facebook and Google, under a programme known as Prism.
They also showed that the US government had gathered so-called metadata – such as the time, duration and numbers called – on all telephone calls carried by service providers.
Such was his anger, Mr Hollande threatened to pull out of negotiations on a transatlantic free trade treaty as a result of the American snooping.
Germany, which was also shown to have been put under American surveillance, told the US: “We aren’t in the Cold War any more.”
President Barack Obama tried to defuse the row, saying: “Every intelligence service, not just ours, but every European intelligence service, every Asian intelligence service, wherever there’s an intelligence service, here’s one thing they’re going to be doing: they’re going to be trying to understand the world better and what’s going on in world capitals around the world from sources that aren’t available through the New York Times or NBC News.”
But Washington was facing protest of rare intensity across Europe with Mario Mauro, Italy’s defence minister, saying the US was treating its allies like Soviet satellite states.
In Strasbourg, the European Parliament agreed to start an investigation into the allegations that European Union offices were among those bugged.
Meanwhile Edward Snowden, the man behind the spying revelations, was thought to be still hiding in Moscow airport, attempting to seek asylum.
Evo Morales, the Bolivian president, had made positive overtures to Mr Snowden but found himself at the centre of a bizarre episode when his plane, returning from Moscow in the early hours of yesterday, was forced to land in Vienna on suspicion he was harbouring the 30-year-old leaker.
Latin American leaders gathered on Thursday in Bolivia to denounce the disruption of Mr Morales’ flight.
Cristina Kirchner, the president of Argentina, tweeted: “I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. It is all so humiliating! Mother of God! What a world we live in.”