France summons US envoy over spying, holds security meeting

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In this image made from video released by WikiLeaks on Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, former National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden speaks during a presentation ceremony for the Sam Adams Award in Moscow, Russia. Should Snowden ever return to the U.S., he would face criminal charges for leaking information about NSA surveillance programs. But legal experts say a trial could expose more classified information as his lawyers try to build a case in an open court that the operations he exposed were illegal. (AP Photo)
In this image made from video released by WikiLeaks on Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, former National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden speaks during a presentation ceremony for the Sam Adams Award in Moscow, Russia. Should Snowden ever return to the U.S., he would face criminal charges for leaking information about NSA surveillance programs. But legal experts say a trial could expose more classified information as his lawyers try to build a case in an open court that the operations he exposed were illegal. (AP Photo)

By LORI HINNANT and ANGELA CHARLTON

PARIS (AP) — Angry and embarrassed, France summoned the U.S. ambassador on Wednesday to respond to the revelations by WikiLeaks that the U.S. National Security Agency eavesdropped on three successive French presidents and other top officials.

The release of the spying revelations appeared to be timed to coincide with a final vote Wednesday in the French Parliament on a bill allowing broad new surveillance powers, in particular to counter terrorism threats.

French President Hollande, calling the U.S. spying an “unacceptable” security breach, convened two emergency meetings as a result of the disclosures about the NSA’s spying. The first was with France’s top security officials, the second with leading legislators, many of whom have already voted for the new surveillance measure.

Hollande was to speak Wednesday with President Barack Obama on the issue.

The documents appear to capture top French officials in Paris between 2006 and 2012 talking candidly about Greece’s economy, relations with Germany, and American spying on allies. While there were no huge surprises, the release of the documents late Tuesday angered and embarrassed French officialdom.

The top floor of the U.S. Embassy, visible from France’s presidential Elysee Palace, reportedly was filled with spying equipment hidden behind trompe l’oeil paintings of windows, according to the Liberation newspaper, which partnered with WikiLeaks and the website Mediapart on the documents.

U.S. Ambassador Jane Hartley was summoned to the French Foreign Ministry. Hollande is also sending France’s top intelligence coordinator to the U.S. shortly, to ensure that promises made after earlier NSA spying revelations in 2013 and 2014 have been kept, the spokesman said.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said the U.S. must do everything it can, and quickly, to “repair the damage” to U.S.-French relations from the revelations, which he called “a very serious violation of the spirit of trust” between the allies.

“If the fact of the revelations today does not constitute a real surprise for anyone, that in no way lessens the emotion and the anger. They are legitimate. France will not tolerate any action threatening its security and fundamental interests,” he said.

Government spokesman Stephane Le Foll told reporters “France does not listen in on its allies.” He added, “we reminded all (government) ministers to be vigilant in their conversations.”

The U.S. Embassy had no comment on the WikiLeaks revelations.

U.S. National Security Council spokesman Ned Price released a statement Tuesday evening saying the U.S. is “not targeting and will not target the communications of President Hollande.” Price did not address claims that the U.S. had previously eavesdropped on Hollande or his predecessors, Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac.

Two of the cables — dealing with then-President Sarkozy and Chirac, his predecessor — were marked “USA, AUS, CAN, GBR, NZL” suggesting that the material was meant to be shared with Britain, Canada and other members of the so-called Five Eyes intelligence alliance.

The disclosures, which emerged late Tuesday, mean that France has joined Germany on the list of U.S. allies targeted by the NSA.

“This involves unacceptable acts that have already given rise to discussions between the United States and France,” Hollande said in a statement after an emergency defense council meeting. The statement said France has reinforced protective measures, without elaborating.

There was no instant confirmation on the accuracy of the documents, which covered intercepts from 2006-12. WikiLeaks, however, has a track record of publishing intelligence and diplomatic material.

An aide to Sarkozy told The Associated Press that the former president considers these methods unacceptable. There was no immediate comment from Chirac.

France is among several U.S. allies that rely heavily on American spying powers when trying to prevent terrorism and other threats, and the intelligence bill expected to pass Wednesday was intended to bolster French capabilities. The French government has repeatedly denied accusations that it wants NSA-style powers.

Le Foll, who was heading Wednesday to Washington on a previously scheduled trip, said it wasn’t a diplomatic rupture, riffing that France was sending not an aircraft carrier to the U.S. but a replica of the Hermione, the ship that carried General Marquis de Lafayette from France to America in 1780 to offer help in the Revolution.

But, he added, “when you see this between allied countries it’s unacceptable and, I would add, incomprehensible.”

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Philippe Sotto and Jamey Keaten in Paris contributed to this report.

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