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‘Nothing surprising’ about Germany spying on France, ex-official tells FRANCE 24

AFP archive | French President François Hollande with German Chancellor Angela Merkel

No one should be surprised that Germany’s foreign intelligence service spied on French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, a former French Air Force intelligence officer told FRANCE 24 Friday.


Berlin public radio reported this week that the BND intelligence service had listened in on its French allies, prompting a show of indignation from French President François Hollande.

"We ask that all the information be given to us," Hollande said Thursday on the sidelines of a migration summit in Malta. "These kinds of practices should not go on between allies.”

"I know that the chancellery will do everything it can to explain the circumstances to us in detail,” he added, saying he had been assured that such spying "had completely stopped".

According to former French Air Force intelligence officer Alain Charret, who is a member of the French Intelligence Research Centre (CF2R) thinktank, Hollande’s show of outrage is just hot air designed to calm public opinion.

“There is absolutely nothing surprising about these revelations,” he told FRANCE 24 on Friday. “Countries routinely spy on their enemies, but they also routinely spy on their allies. It’s perfectly normal.”

“If Hollande was genuinely shocked by these allegations, that would mean he wasn’t aware that this kind of thing is normal,” he said. “But of course he is aware. Hollande has to satisfy the feelings of the general public by expressing some indignation, but the truth is all countries spy on their friends and the only limitation is the means at their disposal.”

Spying a sensitive issue in Germany

The claims on Berlin public radio that the BND spy service had listened in on Fabius fuel an ongoing debate in Germany about state surveillance which was triggered by revelations from fugitive US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

German citizens are protected by the country's constitution which forbids spying on private citizens, a sensitive issue due to extensive surveillance by Communist East Germany's Stasi secret police and by the Nazi era Gestapo.

The reports are awkward for Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose office oversees Germany's intelligence activities, who in 2013 angrily told Washington that "spying among friends isn't on" after reports the US National Security Agency (NSA) had bugged her mobile phone.

Snowden revealed widespread US surveillance in Germany, including bugging Merkel's mobile phone. Since then a scandal has erupted over the BND's own activities and how much it helped the NSA.

The oversight committee is scrutinising BND activity, especially after revelations this year that it indirectly helped the NSA spy on European firms such as Airbus.

Last month, Justice Minister Heiko Maas called for tighter controls on the BND after reports that its spies had targeted embassies of allied countries without the government's express permission.


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