The US has branded reports it spied on millions of French citizens as inaccurate, but the newspaper behind them yesterday said it was sticking by a story that has caused a diplomatic ruckus between the allies.
The latest revelations to emerge from leaks by former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden have also strained US relations with its neighbor Mexico, which said it would investigate allegations US intelligence had hacked into the e-mails of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and his predecessor.
French daily Le Monde said it stood by its report that millions of telephone 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 US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.
Clapper said Le Monde’s report contained “inaccurate and misleading” information about the US’ foreign intelligence activities and that its allegation that 70 million telephone calls had been monitored between Dec. 10 last year and Jan. 8 was false.
Clapper made no mention of Le Monde’s report that the US spied on several French embassies around the world, most notably its missions in Washington and at the UN in New York.
“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 US 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.”
Meanwhile, Pena Nieto ordered an “exhaustive” probe into claims that the NSA hacked his e-mails while he was running for office last year, as well as the messages of his predecessor, former Mexican president Felipe Calderon, while in office.
The Mexican investigation will look into whether such spying indeed took place and if any local officials were complicit, Mexican Minister of the Interior Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said.
Since Pena Nieto took office in December last year, Mexico has “revised and strengthened” the security of the president’s voice and computer communications, he added.
The allegations that Calderon was spied on from May 2010 were reported by German weekly Der Spiegel on Sunday after a similar report by US journalist Glenn Greenwald last month that Pena Nieto had been targeted by the NSA.
The Mexican leader has said that US President Barack Obama pledged to launch an investigation into the alleged spying on his e-mails.
Mexican Minister of Foreign Affairs Jose Antonio Meade said he would summon the US ambassador over the latest claims and called the US response so far “unacceptable.”