France 'will not accept' US spying on Hollande

Former French president Jacques Chirac (left) felt he needed to give his foreign minister detailed orders while his successor Nicolas Sarkozy (centre) thought it was his responsibility to solve the global financial crisis. President Francois Hollande
Former French president Jacques Chirac (left) felt he needed to give his foreign minister detailed orders while his successor Nicolas Sarkozy (centre) thought it was his responsibility to solve the global financial crisis. President Francois Hollande, meanwhile, arranged secret meetings with the German opposition.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

US envoy summoned over WikiLeaks claims French leaders were targeted

PARIS - France summoned the United States ambassador yesterday to complain about "unacceptable" spying on President Francois Hollande and his two predecessors that was apparently revealed in leaked documents.

Mr Hollande was yesterday also due to discuss the documents released by WikiLeaks with US President Barack Obama.

France "will not tolerate any acts that threaten its security", the presidency said, after a meeting between Mr Hollande and his top intelligence officials and Cabinet ministers.

  • WHAT THE DOCUMENTS REVEAL

  • WHAT THE DOCUMENTS REVEAL

    Mr Francois Hollande

    • A note dated May 22, 2012, and classified as "top secret" shows that French President Francois Hollande had "approved holding secret meetings in Paris to discuss the euro zone crisis, particularly the consequences of a Greek exit from the euro zone".

    Mr Hollande also arranged, in a meeting with then French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on May 18 the same year, to hold secret meetings with Germany's opposition Social Democratic Party.

    Mr Ayrault warned the President to keep the meetings secret to avoid "diplomatic problems", with the cable explaining that he meant "what could happen if German Chancellor Angela Merkel finds out that Mr Hollande is going behind her back to meet with the German opposition".

    After earlier talks with Dr Merkel in Berlin, Mr Hollande complained that the Chancellor was fixated on Greece, "on which, he claimed, she had given up and was unwilling to budge".

    This made Mr Hollande "very worried" for Greece and the Greek people, who, he said, may react by voting for an extremist party.

    Mr Nicolas Sarkozy

    • A note from the 2008 records revealed how then President Nicolas Sarkozy "considers it his responsibility to Europe and the world to step up to the plate and resolve the world financial crisis", given France's European Union presidency at the time, and the lack of United States engagement in the crisis.

    Another note dated March 24, 2010, shows that Mr Sarkozy planned to express his frustration over delays in a proposed bilateral intelligence cooperation agreement to US President Barack Obama, with the main sticking point being "the US desire to continue spying on France".

    Mr Jacques Chirac

    • A note from 2006 describes a conversation between the then president and his foreign minister Philippe Douste-Blazy on the appointment of a United Nations envoy. The note says "Chirac's detailed orders may be in response to the foreign minister's propensity... for making ill-timed or inaccurate remarks".

    AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Ms Jane Hartley, the US ambassador to France, was also summoned to meet French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, diplomatic sources told Agence France- Presse.

The documents - labelled "top secret" and appearing to reveal spying on Mr Hollande and former presidents Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy from 2006 to 2012 - were published by WikiLeaks in partnership with French newspaper Liberation and the Mediapart website.

The leak coincided with a vote that was to take place later yesterday in the French Parliament on a controversial new law granting the state sweeping powers to spy on its citizens.

The White House said it was not targeting Mr Hollande's communications and will not do so in the future, but it did not comment on past activities.

"We are not targeting and will not target the communications of President Hollande," said National Security Council spokesman Ned Price late on Tuesday, calling the US partnership with France "indispensable".

Mr Hollande's office recalled promises made by the US in late 2013 that it would not spy on French leaders, following accusations that the US National Security Agency (NSA) tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cellphone. Germany's top public prosecutor closed a year-long probe earlier this month into the allegations, citing a lack of evidence that would stand up in court.

"Commitments were made by the US authorities," the Elysee Palace said in a statement. "They must be remembered and strictly respected."

France's newly appointed national intelligence coordinator Didier Le Bret will also travel to Washington to discuss the issue, the government said.

The leaked documents include five from the NSA, with the most recent dated May 22, 2012, days after Mr Hollande took office. It claims Mr Hollande "approved holding secret meetings in Paris to discuss the euro zone crisis, particularly the consequences of a Greek exit from the euro zone".

It also claims Mr Hollande believed, after talks with Dr Merkel, that she "had given up (on Greece) and was unwilling to budge". "This made Hollande very worried for Greece and the Greek people, who might react by voting for an extremist party," according to the document.

The same file also alleges that the French leader went behind Dr Merkel's back to schedule meetings in Paris with members of the Social Democrats - Germany's main opposition party at the time.

Amid calls from some quarters for retaliation, French government spokesman Stephane Le Foll played down diplomatic consequences. "In the face of threats that we face and given the historic ties linking us, we have to keep a perspective," he said. "We're not going to break diplomatic ties."

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said French citizens had a right to know their government was "subject to hostile surveillance from a supposed ally", and promised more revelations soon.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2015, with the headline 'France 'will not accept' US spying on Hollande'. Print Edition | Subscribe