On Tuesday, WikiLeaks published five top secret documents definitively showing that the National Security Agency has been spying on French President François Hollande, and his two immediate predecessors, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Jacques Chirac, among other top officials.
The documents, as WikiLeaks released them, include excerpts of five intelligence briefs, that contain descriptions of what was intercepted, “taken from various editions of the National Security Agency’s Top Secret Global SIGINT Highlights executive briefings.” This wording suggests that WikiLeaks has even more complete intelligence briefs that it did not publish, an unusual move for the group. WikiLeaks also published a chart showing a list of redacted phone numbers of those officials.
One, dated March 24, 2010, includes notes from a conversation between two top French officials:
Sensitive Issues on the Agenda When French, U.S. Presidents Meet Next Week in Washington (TS//SI//NF)
(TS//SI//NF) French President Sarkozy intends to raise a number of sensitive topics with the U.S. President when the two leaders meet in Washington on 31 March, according to an exchange last week between the French ambassador in Washington Pierre Vimont, and Sarkozy’s diplomatic advisor, Jean-David Levitte. Vimont conveyed that the French President will express his frustration that Washington has backed away from its proposed bilateral intelligence cooperation agreement and Sarkozy intends to continue to push for closure. As Vimont and Levitte understand it, the main sticking point is the U.S. desire to continue spying on France.
The intelligence briefs, pulled from NSA reports called “Global SIGINT Highlights,” give some clues as to how the intelligence they contain was collected. The “Unconventional” label suggests that they leveraged means other than standard phone intercepts, and may have exploited the tools of the NSA’s Tailored Access Office. They also correspond to the period during which President Sarkozy’s office was attacked by Flame malware that was known to have infiltrated computers in President Sarkozy’s office in May 2012.
Claude Guéant, who was interior minister under Sarkozy, described the eavesdropping as “scandalous,” as quoted by Mediapart.
“The French government must react as it sees fit,” he said. “As a minimum it requires an explanation at the very highest level, an absolute commitment to put an end to these practices.”
Neither French media outlet received an on-the-record comment from officials in the Elysée Palace, but Hollande apparently has called a sudden meeting.
As Mediapart reported:
Presidential sources did, however, note that ahead of the meeting between François Hollande and American president Barack Obama in Washington on February 11th, 2014, and then during the meeting itself there was an “undertaking to no longer carry out indiscriminate eavesdropping of the state services of an allied country.”
The NSA did not immediately responded to Ars’ request for comment.
“We do not comment on information from allegedly leaked documents,” Katherine Pfaff, a State Department spokeswoman, e-mailed Ars.
Similarly, Ned Price, a spokesman with the National Security Council, told Ars that his agency would not “comment on specific intelligence allegations.”
“As a general matter, we do not conduct any foreign intelligence surveillance activities unless there is a specific and validated national security purpose,” he wrote by e-mail. “This applies to ordinary citizens and world leaders alike.”
In a follow-up e-mail, Price added, “We are not targeting and will not target the communications of President Hollande.”