NSA spied on French economy ministers, top companies

Published 30.06.2015 20:06

The U.S. wiretapped two of France's economy ministers and spied on the country's largest companies, French media reported citing WikiLeaks documents. Pierre Moscovici, former minister of the economy under French President Francois Hollande and now a European commissioner, and Francois Baroin, minister for budget and then for the economy under Nicholas Sarkozy, were both reportedly targeted by the U.S. National Security Agency. French newspaper Liberation late on Monday said the US agency had spied on some 100 French companies, "including almost all of the CAC 40" index of the country's largest listed firms. "Never has evidence of such huge economic espionage in France, orchestrated at the highest ranks of the American government, been established so clearly," said Liberation.

Spying focused mainly on telecommunications, electricity, gas, oil, nuclear and renewable energy, and health projects, as well as all deals valued at above $200 million, according to WikiLeaks. Online news portal Mediapart in particular pointed to a wiretap of a conversation from 2012 between then finance minister Moscovici and a socialist senator.

WikiLeaks last week said the United States National Security Agency (NSA) spied on Presidents Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande of France, citing top-secret intelligence reports and other technical documents. According to the documents, the United States spied on presidents regarding issues related to the French position on the Eurozone economy and Greece's potential exit from it, United Nations appointments, Middle East peace talks and the financial crisis of 2008. The leaked U.S. documents were based on phone taps and allegedly marked "top secret," filed in an NSA document named "Espionnage Elysée" (Elysée Spy).

After the reveal of the scandal, France summoned the U.S. ambassador while the U.S. said there will be more cooperation between the two countries. Moreover, White House wanted Hollande to be sure that he is not wiretapped. However, France gave a political response to the U.S. through saying that asylum may be offered to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. The French foreign ministry summoned the U.S. ambassador to France to discuss the revelations, according to a French diplomatic source. "We find it hard to understand or imagine what motivates an ally to spy on allies who often have the same strategic positions in world affairs," French government spokesman Stéphane Le Foll told iTELE television.

Previous instances of U.S.-intelligence information gathering on foreign allies have caused diplomatic tensions, including with Germany and Brazil. When former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed NSA spying activities in 2013, documents showed that the NSA had carried out large-scale electronic espionage in Germany and had bugged and eavesdropped on the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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