The timing could certainly be better. French President Francois Hollande has complained bitterly in recent days about U.S. international surveillance programs, concerns that were echoed as recently as yesterday by France’s Interior Minister at a Fourth of July event hosted by the U.S. ambassador in Paris.
And yet, here we are.
Days after President François Hollande sternly told the United States to stop spying on its allies, the newspaper Le Monde disclosed on Thursday that France has its own large program of data collection, which sweeps up nearly all the data transmissions, including telephone calls, e-mails and social media activity, that come in and out of France.
Le Monde reported that the General Directorate for External Security does the same kind of data collection as the American National Security Agency and the British GCHQ, but does so without clear legal authority.
The French government records data, stores it for an indeterminate period of time, all for the purposes of helping government officials trace who talks to whom using French telecommunications systems. The French surveillance programs include collection from American systems such as Google and Facebook
The New York Times report added that the revelations “appeared to make some of the French outrage about the revelations [about NSA spying] appear somewhat hollow.”