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Paris also snoops on US, says French former spy boss

© AFP

Text by Tony TODD

Latest update : 2013-10-26

Spying on allies is all in a day’s work, the former head of France’s domestic intelligence agency (pictured) said on Thursday, following reports that the US National Security Agency recorded millions of French phone calls.

France spies on the US just as the US spies on France, the former head of France’s counter-espionage and counter-terrorism agency said Friday, commenting on reports that the US National Security Agency (NSA) recorded millions of French telephone calls.

Bernard Squarcini, head of the Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intérieur (DCRI) intelligence service until last year, told French daily Le Figaro he was “astonished” when Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said he was "deeply shocked" by the claims.

“I am amazed by such disconcerting naiveté,” he said in the interview. “You’d almost think our politicians don’t bother to read the reports they get from the intelligence services.”

Germany summons US ambassador over spying allegations

Germany’s foreign minister summoned the United States’ ambassador to Germany, John B. Emerson, on Thursday to discuss allegations that Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone had been monitored, a government spokesman said on Thursday.

The move comes a day after Merkel called US President Barack Obama to demand an explanation, warning that if true, the act would amount to a “grave breach of trust”.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

On Monday, French daily Le Monde published a story based on leaks from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, alleging that the NSA had recorded 70 million phone calls in France in a 30-day period from December 10 to January 8 this year.

‘Deep disapproval’

The following day French President Franços Hollande called his US counterpart Barack Obama to express "deep disapproval of these practices, which are unacceptable between friends and allies because they infringe on the privacy of French citizens".

But for Squarcini, who was questioned in 2011 over surveillance of journalists investigating alleged illegal campaign funding for former president Nicolas Sarkozy, spying on allies is all in a day’s work.

“The French intelligence services know full well that all countries, whether or not they are allies in the fight against terrorism, spy on each other all the time,” he said.

“The Americans spy on French commercial and industrial interests, and we do the same to them because it’s in the national interest to protect our companies.”

“There was nothing of any real surprise in this report,” he added. “No one is fooled.”

Spying on Merkel a ‘compliment’ to Germany

On Wednesday, it was German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s turn to put in a call to the White House following reports that the US had snooped on her personal mobile phone.

But Merkel, and Germany, should look upon such intrusion as a “compliment”, former CIA operations officer Joseph Wippl told AFP.

"Chancellor Merkel is important. If the NSA was not surveying her communications, it was only because it was unable to do so," he said.

"How could the NSA not want to listen in on the person rated by Forbes as the second most powerful person in the world after President Obama?”

Date created : 2013-10-24

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