Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault
Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said he was “deeply shocked” over a report that indicates that the National Security Agency (NSA) intercepts 70 million French calls a month. The intercepts were apparently triggered by certain key words. Now, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has summoned the US ambassador to discuss the claims “immediately.”

LeMonde, a French website, reports (translated):

211013nsaAccording to documents from the National Security Agency (NSA) obtained by Le Monde, telephone communications are French citizens, in fact, intercepted a massive way. These pieces, unveiled in June by former consultant agency, Edward Snowden, describe the techniques used to capture the secrets illegally or simple privacy of French. Some items were discussed by the German weekly Der Spiegel and the British newspaper The Guardian. Others are new.

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Among the thousands of documents removed from the NSA by the former employee is a graph that describes the extent of telephone surveillance carried out in France. It was found that over a period of thirty days, from 10 December 2012 to 8 January 2013, 70.3 million recordings of telephone French data were performed by the NSA.

This espionage appears as the “US-985d” program. The exact explanation of this symbol has not been provided to date by Snowden documents or by former members of the NSA. A way of comparison, the acronyms used by the NSA for the same type of interception to Germany are “US-987LA” and “US-987LB.” This series of numbers correspond to qualified by the United States of “third party” which France, the circle belong Germany but also the Austria, the Poland or even Belgium. The “second part” for the Anglo-Saxon countries historically near Washington, the United Kingdom, the Canada, the Australia and New Zealand, known as the “Five Eyes.” The “first part” for it, the sixteen services U.S. secrets.

The techniques used for these interceptions codes appear “DRTBOX” and “WHITEBOX.” Their characteristics are not known. But we know that with the first code, 62.5 million telephone data collected in France on 10 December 2012 to 8 January 2013 and the second allows you to record over the same period 7.8 million items. The documents provide sufficient explanation for thinking that the target of the NSA concern both suspected links to terrorist activities that targeted individuals for their mere membership in the world of business, politics or the French administration.

“It’s incredible that an allied country like the United States at this point goes as far as spying on private communications that have no strategic justification, no justification on the basis of national defence,” Mr Ayrault told journalists.

Fabius, warned: “This sort of practice between partners that invades privacy is totally unacceptable and we have to make sure, very quickly, that this no longer happens.”

The summoning of the US ambassador came at the time that Secretary of State John Kerry was arriving in the French capital for the start of a European tour to discuss the Middle East, in particular Syria.

“Rules are obviously needed when it comes to new communication technologies, and that’s something that concerns every country,” French Interior Minister Manuel Valls told Europe-1 radio. “If a friendly country – an ally – spies on France or other European countries; that is completely unacceptable.”

The Guardian adds:

According to the paper, the documents show that the NSA was allegedly targeting not only terrorist suspects but politicians, businesspeople and members of the administration under a programme codenamed US-985D.

“The agency has several collection methods,” Le Monde said. “When certain French phone numbers are dialled, a signal is activated that triggers the automatic recording of certain conversations. This surveillance also recovers SMS and content based on keywords.”

Such methods, it added, allowed the NSA to keep a systematic record of each target’s connections.

Le Monde said the unpublished Snowden documents to which it had access showed “intrusion, on a vast scale, both into the private space of French citizens as well as into the secrets of major national firms”.

The most recent documents cited by Le Monde, dated April 2013, indicated the NSA’s interest in email addresses linked to Wanadoo, which was once part of France Telecom. About 4.5 million people still use email addresses in France.

Also targeted was Alcatel-Lucent, a French-American telecom company that employs more than 70,000 people and works in the sensitive sector of equipping communication networks. One of the documents instructed analysts to draw not only from the electronic surveillance programme but also from another initiative dubbed Upstream, which allowed surveillance on undersea communications cables.

Though Le Monde says that US authorities would not comment on the documents, which they regard as classified, they did point to a statement made in June by the US director of national intelligence, in which James Clapper defended the actions as legal.

“[They] are lawful and conducted under authorities widely known and discussed, and fully debated and authorized by Congress,” he said. “Their purpose is to obtain foreign intelligence information, including information necessary to thwart terrorist and cyber-attacks against the United States and its allies.”

Interestingly enough, Le Monde reported just this summer that France had been running its own electronic surveillance operation from its citizens’ phone and internet activity using very similar methods to that of the NSA’s Prism program.

Anyone willing to bet France is intercepting some of Americans’ emails, texts, phone calls, etc.?

Tim Brown is the Editor of Freedom Outpost.