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NSA Surveillance of French Data

NSA Surveillance of French Data

Published on October 22, 2013
Official Statements From the French Government

Excerpt from a press briefing by Government spokesperson Najat Vallaud-Belkacem
Paris, October 30, 2013

The head of the NSA said that the data collection wasn’t carried out by the U.S. but by its NATO partners. What can you tell us about that? Is it true?

I saw the NSA director’s remarks. As the President reiterated this morning, more must be done to clarify the practices of U.S. secret services. That’s why, at last week’s European Council, he stressed the importance of undertaking this initiative with Germany in particular—an initiative that was launched as a result of the gravity of the actions, which appear to have been thoroughly substantiated. From this standpoint, the NSA director’s denials do not seem very plausible. So what was decided, with respect to the French-German initiative, was that the appropriate services on our side would work with U.S services to institute a code of good conduct. I think we must establish clarity and shed light on past practices, but also ensure that in the future, things will unfold as they should, with the understanding, as the President noted this morning, that there’s obviously a security challenge—the secret services are there to fight terrorism—but at the same time, we can’t allow our partnerships to be undermined by doubt. In fact, this doesn’t concern only political structures but also the economic sector and the industrial sector. Also at stake is the protection of citizens’ personal data, which is very important. That’s why, at the last European Council, France stressed that European regulations addressing personal data protection must be adopted by early 2015, and that should be the case.


Statements made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson
Paris, October 30, 2013

The interception of communications in France may have been carried out by the French secret services who then shared the information with the NSA. What’s your response?

Our concern centers on the nature and scale of American wiretapping in our territory.

It’s with regard to this matter that the French authorities requested an explanation from their American counterparts, and that France proposed establishing a common framework for clarification with the United States.

With respect to the surveillance activities carried out by our intelligence services, these are strictly regulated by law.


Press Conference given by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic (excerpts)
Brussels, October 25, 2013

Three issues stood out at this European Council.

The first issue concerned the question raised in the wake of the revelations about the surveillance, the interception which the “Snowden affair” brought to light. The second issue discussed was the digital economy, i.e. the very focus of this European Council – at any rate for this first day. The third issue was banking union, on which an important conclusion was adopted.


I’ll come back to each of these points. The first point is that there are behaviour and practices which can’t be accepted. When, at a certain level and on this scale, surveillance is carried out – in this case by the American [intelligence] services – which might affect all citizens, including a number of European leaders, things must be halted and we must demand clarifications.

This is what the Europeans did this evening, unanimously, by taking the view that a number of answers had to be obtained from our American allies. This evening, there was a Franco-German initiative to prompt this necessary debate first of all, and also to further, in several ways, the cause of freedom.

Indeed, nobody is keener than me for the secret services or security forces mechanisms to be fully mobilized to fight terrorism. But I’m also convinced, along with the [other] Europeans, of the need to protect individual freedoms and fundamental rights.

On that basis, we first need a code of good conduct among Europeans. We ourselves must get things straight and not practise what we criticize others for. So a code of good conduct must be established among Europeans, among the services concerned.

Next, France and Germany will take the initiative of initiating a discussion with the Americans to establish, by the end of the year, a common framework for cooperation and clarification. Those Europeans who want to join us will be welcome. So to be more precise, we’re going to ensure not only that the past can be clarified between the services but also that rules can be established for the future. That’s what I call the common framework of cooperation.

France and Germany are united in this approach. It’s not exclusive: it seeks to involve other European countries that would like, with us, to secure this common framework.

A European working group was set up as soon as the Snowden affair was revealed – at the same time, incidentally, as the trade negotiation with the Americans. It was reiterated this evening – by all the Europeans, and it will also be a conclusion of the European Council – that this working group must further speed up these initiatives with the American allies, in such a way that it focuses on the past and that all the elements can be known.

It’s a subject that will continue to be a cause for concern, because we know there will be other revelations. Each day brings its share. Rather than wait for what the press is preparing on the basis of the Snowden documents, we should initiate proceedings straight away.

At Franco-German level, this will be done. And at European level, the group that was set up immediately after the scandal was revealed will be reactivated. There’s a requirement for results, because trust is essential between allies. If we want to work in harmony, with the same concern to fight terrorism and enable our citizens to be safe, we must have rules. This applies to each of the countries, it applies to Europe and it applies to the United States.

Finally, the Snowden revelations may be useful in that they will enable us both to make the services’ action more effective and better protect citizens’ freedoms.

That was the first point discussed at this Council, and it had to be.


Statements made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson
Paris, October 25, 2013

What is the situation with respect to the spying affair?

President Hollande is attending the European Council in Brussels. Yesterday evening, he reaffirmed France’s position: these practices are unacceptable. The minister of foreign affairs discussed this issue on Tuesday morning with John Kerry. He has spoken about it on several occasions this week.

With respect to this issue, we want to work with the United States, both bilaterally and within a European framework. President Hollande indicated that a code of good conduct should be established between the Europeans and the Americans. He added that France and Germany would take the initiative to open up a discussion with the Americans in order to establish a common framework for cooperation and clarification by the end of the year, and that the Europeans who would like to join us would be welcome to do so.


Press Conference given by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs
London, October 22, 2013

As I know you are curious by nature, I imagine you’re also going to ask me questions about what I did at 7.00 a.m. this morning when I had a meeting with the US Secretary of State. We talked about Syria, Iran and US spying in France.

I repeated to John Kerry what François Hollande said yesterday to Barack Obama, that this kind of spying conducted on a huge scale by the Americans on their allies is unacceptable. I asked him promptly both to provide me with the facts and put a stop to these practices – that’s the least he could do.

John Kerry answered, as in fact President Obama had done, that this system was inherited from previous administrations and that they were in the process of reviewing it in order to find a balance between the security imperatives and protection of individual freedoms. This may well be so. But we want a stop put to these practices and to be fully informed about them, because there’s no way we’re going to accept finding out about such matters through a newspaper article or statement, or information gathered after the Snowden affair. That’s where we are at the moment.

Concurrently, as you very probably know, President Hollande is going to be talking about protecting personal data this week, since there’s going to be a European summit with the digital economy on its agenda. We can’t contemplate developing the digital economy if at the same time there’s no protection of personal data. This issue is also on the table because we’re working on the possibility of a transatlantic partnership between the United States and Europe; obviously this is a matter not just for France, but for other countries too. Two meetings of relevant working groups have taken place on this, but so far they haven’t come up with positive results.

We’re counting on the Americans giving us information on this subject in the next few weeks, without delay. The information published this afternoon in Le Monde repeats things already said in June. We’ve already taken some initial measures, particularly at the Quai d’Orsay, since we decided to protect the security of a number of communications and also launched an audit of our installations in the United States since these seemed to have been spied on, which is obviously wholly unacceptable. That’s the second point I wanted to talk about.


Excerpts from the daily press briefing by Romain Nadal, French Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ spokesman
Paris, October 22, 2013

Mr. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs, met this morning with his American counterpart, Mr. John Kerry. He reiterated to him our request for an explanation regarding the unacceptable spying practices between partners which must stop.

The meeting provided an opportunity to discuss the situation in Syria ahead of the meeting of the Friends of Syria “Core Group” taking place today in London, in which both ministers will participate. The goal of this meeting is to discuss in more detail the parameters of a genuine transition process for Syria, in which Bashar al-Assad should have no role to play. Indeed, France supports the swift organization of the Geneva II conference, the goal of which is the establishment of a transitional government exercising full executive powers, including those of the presidency. It is in this spirit that we hope that the members of the “Core Group” will reaffirm and strengthen their support for the Syrian National Coalition.


Telephone conversation between the President of the Republic and Mr Barack Obama, President of the United States of America
Paris, October 21, 2013

On Monday evening, the President spoke on the telephone to President Obama in the wake of revelations published by the Le Monde newspaper about recordings of telephone data in France by the American intelligence services.

The Head of State expressed his profound disapproval of these practices, which are unacceptable between allies and friends, since they violate the privacy of French citizens. He has asked for full explanations to be given, and for all information former NSA consultant Edward Snowden might have.

The two heads of state agreed to work together to establish the facts and the precise scope of the surveillance activities revealed by Le Monde.

They stressed that intelligence-gathering operations had to be regulated, inter alia in a bilateral framework, in order effectively to further the only legitimate battle, i.e. the battle against terrorism.

The two presidents agreed that the French and American intelligence services would cooperate together in this respect./.


Statements made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson
Paris, October 21, 2013

The American ambassador was summoned to the Quai d’Orsay this morning because of the NSA’s massive interception of communications in France last December and January. Who received him and what can you tell us about that meeting?
Will Mr. Fabius raise this issue with his American counterpart during their meeting on Tuesday morning?

The American ambassador was received by the Quai d’Orsay’s chief of staff this morning. As the foreign minister indicated, we reminded him that such practices between partners are totally unacceptable and that he must assure us that they are no longer going on. We asked for a prompt and tangible response to our concerns.

As soon as the first revelations emerged, we proposed to our EU partners that our negotiations with the United States include a data-protection track. At our request, a US-EU working group was therefore established in July. It has already met twice. The European Council of October 24 and 25, which will largely be devoted to digital challenges, will deal with this issue at the highest level, among heads of state and government. The digital economy cannot function properly without an effective guarantee of personal data.

As for your second question, the meeting between Mr. Fabius and his American counterpart tomorrow will deal mainly with Syria and regional issues, but this topic will also be raised.

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