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France’s top daily highlights Sarkozy in Wikileaks release

Video by Mairead DUNDAS

Text by Joseph BAMAT

Latest update : 2010-11-30

WikiLeaks chose five dailies from around the world to publish the release of more than a quarter of a million leaked US diplomatic cables. One of them, France’s Le Monde, has highlighted Washington’s views on France and US "spying" at the UN.

From the massive classified documents dump it received from Wikileaks, France’s highly-respected daily Le Monde has chosen to highlight the various images French President Nicolas Sarkozy has impressed upon US diplomats, as well as Washington’s spying directives targeting United Nations officials.

As part of its latest worldwide media extravaganza, the whistleblower website Wikileaks, which has won both global praise and loathing in equal measure for exposing state secrets, chose five fixtures of the international press through which to share more than 250,000 leaked US diplomatic cables with the world.

The New York Times (USA), The Guardian (UK), Der Spiegel (Germany), El Pais (Spain) and Le Monde (France), the five newspapers selected, have unanimously focused on fears surrounding Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Islamic Republic’s nuclear ambition.

Sarkozy: a “susceptible” and “authoritarian” ally

Le Monde chose to lead with a front-page splash on the document leak, featuring prominently a photo of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The French daily said that the US embassy in Paris closely followed Sarkozy’s ascension to power, and that Sarkozy had slammed his predecessor’s - ex-president Jacques Chirac - foreign policy in conversations with US diplomats.

The cables note how Sarkozy travelled to Washington to “express his admiration of George Bush” and that Washington officials called Sarkozy “the most pro-American president since World War II”, Le Monde wrote. Nevertheless, on a less positive note, he was also characterised as “susceptible” and “authoritarian” by the Americans.

Among the leaked mass of cables, the Paris embassy was the point of origin for more than 3,700 documents, the most of any European capital. Le Monde said that in the weeks to come it would file numerous stories related to the cables that cover France and French officials.

The daily said US diplomats had communicated on France’s anti-terrorist policies, the riots in its poor suburbs and, in particular, France’s foreign policy toward Iran, Afghanistan, Russia, Lebanon, Senegal, the Ivory Coast and Northern Africa.

Gathering DNA at the UN

But before Monday’s edition of Le Monde appeared in newsstands, the daily’s website headlined on another controversial topic of the cables dump: US State Department directives on intelligence gathering at the United Nations. According to the leaked cables provided by Wikileaks, Le Monde highlighted an intelligence gathering directive (memo 219058) sent out by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s office to US officials working at the UN. The directive encouraged US officials to forgo rules covering diplomatic immunity or general personal privacy, the French daily reported.

US diplomats were expected to collect such things as “credit card account numbers, frequent flyer account numbers”, and record their foreign colleagues’ computer passwords and work schedules. The broadsheet also revealed that diplomats were told to spy on UN Security Council permanent representatives, such as British and French officials, and to gather biographic and biometric information; information that includes “fingerprints, head shots, DNA and iris scans”.

Wikileaks said on its website that it had chosen to partner with Le Monde and the other newspapers because they were news organisations with the resources necessary to spend weeks researching and analysing the documents prior to publication. The leaked cables were sent to the dailies several weeks ahead of the mass public unveiling on Monday.

Le Monde also reported that the five newspapers had worked in an unprecedented coordination effort to determine, among other considerations, which cables not to publish because of questionable sources or potential reprisals in authoritarian states.

Date created : 2010-11-29


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