Monday 25 September 2017

France 'spying on its own citizens in huge operation'

France's President Francois Hollande
France's President Francois Hollande

Harriet Alexander

THE French government spies on its own citizens in the same way as the United States, it has been claimed.

All phone calls, emails, text messages, faxes and internet searches are monitored by the French security services – the Direction Generale de la Securite Exterieure (DGSE) – according to a report in the French newspaper 'Le Monde' yesterday. The practice is illegal.

The epicentre of the spying operation is a three-storey underground bunker at the DGSE's headquarters on Boulevard Mortier, Paris. The building contains a "supercalculator capable of managing tens of millions of gigaoctets of information".

The French authorities do not note the content of the communications, the newspaper claims, but instead are interested in establishing links between known figures in a terrorist network.

"The politicians know about it, but secrecy is the rule," wrote Jacques Follorou and Franck Johannes. "It is out of control."

The series of revelations will be highly embarrassing to Francois Hollande, the French president, who has expressed outrage at US interception of French communications. "We cannot accept this kind of behaviour between partners and allies," Mr Hollande said last week.

The United States has proposed holding talks on Monday "on the collection and oversight of intelligence, and questions of privacy and data protection", in an attempt to quell the anger.

But yesterday, as Manuel Valls, the interior minister, was saying that such spying was unacceptable, it was alleged that France was doing the same.

The National Commission for Information and Liberty denied it was engaged in illicit work.

But others were adamant that France was spying on people in the same way as the Americans. "Welcome to the age in which we are all under virtual authorisation," said one former employee.

The activities mentioned are similar to those carried out by America's National Security Agency, as described in documents leaked by Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor.

The documents revealed that the NSA has access to vast amounts of internet data such as emails, chat rooms and video from large companies such as Facebook and Google, under a program known as Prism.

Such was his anger over the revelations that Mr Hollande threatened to pull out of negotiations on a transatlantic free trade treaty. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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