France, Mexico Demand Answers After Snowden-Leaked Spy Claims

Image: France, Mexico Demand Answers After Snowden-Leaked Spy Claims

Monday, 21 Oct 2013 05:08 AM

 

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PARIS — France and Mexico have angrily demanded prompt explanations from Washington following fresh, "shocking" spying allegations leaked by former U.S. security contractor Edward Snowden.

France called in the U.S. ambassador on Monday to protest allegations in the Le Monde newspaper about large-scale spying on French citizens by the National Security Agency (NSA), French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.

"I have immediately summoned the U.S. ambassador and he will be received this morning at the Quai d'Orsay [the French Foreign Ministry]," Fabius told reporters at a European Union foreign ministers' meeting in Luxembourg.

The reports in French daily Le Monde and German weekly Der Spiegel revealed that the NSA secretly recorded tens of millions of phone calls in France and hacked into former Mexican President Felipe Calderon's email account.

French Interior Minister Manuel Valls described the revelations in Le Monde newspaper as "shocking," in an interview Monday with Europe 1 radio.

The spy agency taped 70.3 million phone calls in France over a 30-day period between December 10 and January 8 this year, Le Monde reported in its online version, citing documents from Snowden.

According to the paper, the NSA automatically picked up communications from certain phone numbers in France and recorded text messages under a program code-named "US-985D."

Le Monde said the documents gave grounds to believe that the NSA targeted not only people suspected of being involved in terrorism but also high-profile individuals from the world of business or politics.

Valls said the revelations would call for "precise explanations by U.S. authorities in the coming hours."

U.S. authorities declined comment to the French daily on the "classified" documents.

The Le Monde article followed similar revelations by Der Spiegel — also based on documents provided by Snowden — that U.S. agents had hacked into the Mexican presidency's network, gaining access to Calderon's account.

According to the report, the NSA said this contained "diplomatic, economic and leadership communications which continue to provide insight into Mexico's political system and internal stability."

The agency reportedly said the president's office was now "a lucrative source."

Mexican authorities said they would be seeking answers from U.S. officials "as soon as possible" following the allegations.

"The Mexican government reiterates its categorical condemnation of the violation of privacy of institutional communications and Mexican citizens," Mexico's foreign ministry said in a statement Sunday.

"This practice is unacceptable, illegitimate and contrary to Mexican law and international law," the statement read.

Snowden, who has taken refuge in Russia, is wanted in the United States for espionage and other charges after leaking details of the NSA's worldwide snooping activities, which triggered a global furore when published in major newspapers in June.

The fugitive had been in hiding in Hong Kong since May and flew to Moscow on June 23, where he stayed in the transit area for more than a month before being given temporary asylum and leaving the airport for a safe location.

President Barack Obama has since proposed reforms of U.S. surveillance programs in the wake of the furor.

© AFP 2014

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