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France

French government accused of widespread spying on its own citizens

media French security services have allegedly used widespread surveillance techniques … Getty Images/Joerg Steffens

The French government has been spying on its own people, in the same way the Americans have done, according to French daily Le Monde. Texts, emails, internet searches and more are subject to government checks. Politicians are demanding answers.

According to France’s highly respected Le Monde newspaper, the Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure (DGSE) intercepts communications in France "in their totality" and stocks the information for years.

The DGSE, located in the east of Paris in a three-story underground bunker, allegedly uses a supercalculator that is capable of managing tens of millions of gigaoctets of information.

Phone calls, internet searches, text messages, emails, faxes, and Facebook and Twitter accounts are all subject to surveillance. Le Monde says information is collected on a daily basis and that the practice takes place without any outside monitoring.

Matignon, home to the Prime Minister, responded Thursday night by calling the report “incorrect.” They said the DGSE, along with the DCRI, France’s intelligence agency, and customs services manage France’s security, but noted that these actions were legitimate according to a law from 1991.

Jean-Christophe Lagarde, spokesperson for the Union of Democrats and Independents party, called on Interior Minister Manuel Valls to respond to the claims.

“Can you assure us, Mr. Minister, that no parliamentarian has been targeted by the spying and that this information is false?” he said.

The news puts Valls in an awkward position, just after he denounced allegations that the United States was using its spying techniques on Europe.

On Thursday night, Valls told a crowd of guests at Paris’s American ambassador’s 4 July garden party that "in the name of our friendship, we owe each other honesty. We must say things clearly, directly, frankly."

Days before, France’s President François Hollande called for an immediate end to the supposed surveillance tactics and said, “We cannot accept this kind of behaviour between partners and allies.”

A report in Germany’s Der Spiegel and the UK’s Guardian showed that the US had used covert surveillance techniques on EU offices in Washington and New York, as well as its headquarters in Brussels.

European security experts are set to meet their US counterparts on Monday to discuss the alleged snooping, as negotiations on a massive EU-US free trade deal hang in the balance.

Meanwhile, America’s former National Security Agency (NSA) employee Edward Snowden, who initially outed the US’s Prism surveillance program, awaits a positive response from his 21 asylum requests.

 

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