French Complain About NSA Recording 70 Million Calls in a Month, US Tells Them to Quit Whining

October 22, 2013

The U.S. ambassador to France met with French diplomats Monday over allegations that the National Security Agency intercepted more than 70 million phone calls in France over a 30-day period.

Ambassador Charles Rivkin was summoned to the French Foreign Ministry in Paris after the details of the alleged spying appeared in the French newspaper Le Monde.

“These kinds of practices between partners, that violate privacy, are totally unacceptable,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters at an EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Monday. “We must quickly assure that these practices aren’t repeated.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who was in Paris and met with the Qatari foreign minister, wouldn’t address the specifics of the report, but told reporters that France is one of the U.S.’s closest allies. He added that the countries work together to protect the security of their citizens, which is a “very complicated task” in today’s world.

Kerry said “lots of countries” engage in intelligence activities to try to prevent terrorist attacks and, as U.S. President Barack Obama has said, the U.S. is currently reviewing the way it gathers intelligence.

He said Rivkin would would continue consultations with the French.

Millions of calls intercepted

The National Security Agency monitored the phone calls made in France, Le Monde reported Monday, citing documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

“Telephone communications of French citizens are intercepted on a massive scale,” Le Monde said in its online English edition.

The intercepts took place from December 10, 2012, to January 8, 2013, the article reported. An NSA graph shows an average of 3 million data intercepts a day.

According to Le Monde, this is how the system worked: “When a telephone number is used in France, it activates a signal which automatically triggers the recording of the call. Apparently this surveillance system also picks up SMS (text) messages and their content using key words. Finally, the NSA apparently stores the history of the connections of each target — or the meta-data.”

It wasn’t immediately clear from the article if the conversations were recorded or just the data surrounding each call.

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