US writes off French ire over NSA surveillance, says all nations spy
Zee Media Bureau/Supriya Jha
Washington: Rejecting French outrage over NSA having monitored over 70 million phone calls in the country, the White House said that "all nations" indulged in spying activities.
However US President Barack Obama called up French counterpart Francois Hollande and assured him that the US was reviewing its intelligence gathering practices.
A statement by the White House said, "As a matter of policy we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations".
"As the President said in his speech at the UN General Assembly, we`ve begun to review the way we gather intelligence so that we properly balance the legitimate security concerns of our citizens and allies with the privacy concerns that all people share," the White House spokesperson Jay Carney said.
During the phone call made by Obama, Hollande expressed his "deep disapproval" of the NSA spying reports, saying that such practices were "unacceptable between friends and allies because they infringe on the privacy of French citizens".
France is fuming over the report published in Le Monde newspaper according to which the US monitored over 70 million phone calls and text messages as well in France.
According to the report in French newspaper Le Monde, the National Security Agency (NSA) tracked 70.3 million phone calls in France in a time span of just 30 days between 10 December, 2012, and 8 January, 2013.
The report added that the US surveillance operation, codenamed US-985D, tracked calls and messages based on certain keywords and it not only targeted the terror suspects, but also high profile people in business and politics.
The report was co-authored by ex-Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, who also was the first journalist to expose the information about US spying programmes leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The fury against the US was augmented by a similar report in the German weekly Der Spiegel according to which the NSA also hacked into the email account of former Mexican President Felipe Calderon.
Agitated over the report, Calderon tweeted the new reports of the US tracking his emails were an "affront to the institutions of the country, given that it took place when I was president".
Deeply shocked over the spying claims, French PM Jean-Marc Ayrault said, "It`s incredible that an allied country like the United States at this point goes as far as spying on private communications that have no strategic justification, no justification on the basis of national defence."
With Interior Minister Manuel Valls calling the act as “unacceptable”, France had yesterday decided to summon the US ambassador over the matter.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius also said in a statement that US envoy Charles Rivkin had been summoned over the issue.
The US ambassador Charles Rivkin in a statement assured French Foreign Ministry that "the ongoing bilateral consultations on allegations of information gathering by US government agencies would continue".
A statement by the US embassy in Paris said that the US ambassador "expressed his appreciation of the importance of the exchange, and promised to convey the points made back to Washington."
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