Paris (AFP) – The United States has branded reports it spied on millions of French citizens as inaccurate but the newspaper behind them said Wednesday it was sticking by a story which has caused a diplomatic ruckus between the allies.
The latest revelations to emerge from leaks by former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden have also strained U.S. relations with its neighbour Mexico, which said it would investigate allegations US intelligence had hacked into the emails of President Enrique Pena Nieto and his predecessor.
French daily Le Monde said it stood by its report that millions of phone calls in France were monitored by the NSA and published what it described as an NSA document showing a daily breakdown of the alleged snooping.
The paper was responding to a statement by James Clapper, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence.
Clapper said Le Monde’s report contained “inaccurate and misleading” information about America’s foreign intelligence activities and that a specific claim 70 million phone calls had been monitored between December 10, 2012 and January 8 of this year was false.
Clapper made no mention of Le Monde’s report that the U.S. spied on several French embassies around the world, most notably its missions in Washington and at the United Nations in New York.
NSA “While we are not going to discuss the details of our activities, we have repeatedly made it clear that the United States gathers intelligence of the type gathered by all nations,” Clapper said.
“The U.S. collects intelligence to protect the nation, its interests, and its allies from, among other things, threats such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”
Pena Nieto meanwhile ordered an “exhaustive” probe into claims that the NSA hacked his emails while he was running for office last year, as well as the messages of predecessor Felipe Calderon while in office.
The Mexican investigation will look into whether such spying indeed took place and if any local officials were complicit, said Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong.