President Obama has reassured the French President Francois Hollande he is no longer a target of American intelligence gathering efforts, as documents from Wikileaks showed Washington had spied on the last three French leaders.
The US ambassador was summoned to the French foreign ministry on Wesdnesday to explain, amid French anger. After the meeting Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said:
“As much as we understand the need for phone taps with regard to terrorists, that has nothing to do with the tapping of leaders who are allies and friends. I’ve asked the ambassador to give us some rapid answers.”
With the National Security Agency’s activities once again under the spotlight, the White House did its best to dodge the question of past surveillance of French leaders.
“There is obviously a very persistent extremist terrorist threat inside of France right now;” explained Josh Earnest, White House Press Secretary. “Obviously that is something that the French people and the French government take very seriously and we are pleased that the United States, given our special relationship and given our unique capabilities, that we can substantially contribute to their effort. To keep that country and the citizens of France safe.”
The WikiLeaks revelations detailed how Washington had eavesdropped on the phone conversations of French presidents Chirac, Sarkozy and Hollande until 2012.
France itself plans extensive new intelligence powers to snoop on its own people.