NSA leaks: Barack Obama speaks to Hollande over telephone records sweep

TEHRAN, Oct. 22 (MNA) – President Obama reiterated his pledge for a review of US surveillance methods as he moved to ease concerns over claims that the National Security Agency had secretly recorded millions of French telephone calls.

Mr Obama spoke to French president Francoise Hollande yesterday following a report in a French newspaper that suggested that the NSA had swept up to 70.3 million French telephone records in a 30-day period.

The report, co-written in Le Monde by Glenn Greenwald, the journalist behind the Edward Snowden intelligence leaks, warned that America’s data interceptions were likely to extend beyond suspected terrorists but also included people in business, politics and the French administration.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called the revelations “unacceptable” and summoned US Ambassador Charles Rivkin for an explanation.

Last night it emerged that President Obama had also intervened in the fallout during a phone call with Mr Hollande.  A White House statement said Mr Obama told Mr Hollande that the US was in the process of reviewing its intelligence-gathering to ensure a balance between security and privacy. The statement said: “President [Obama] made clear that the United States has begun to review the way that 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 statement appeared to play down some of the disclosures adding: “some of which have distorted our activities and some of which raise legitimate questions for our friends and allies about how these capabilities are employed”.

Nonetheless the reiteration of a review of surveillance methods is likely to be seen as a significant step forward for privacy campaigners coming in the aftermath of US surveillance disclosures that have been drip-fed since June.

Earlier the US Secretary of State John Kerry, who was in Paris to meet Arab League officials, said that the US would continue “bilateral consultations” to address the issue of surveillance and privacy.

“Protecting the security of our citizens in today’s world is a very complicated, very challenging task… because there are lots of people out there seeking to do harm to other people,” he said.

The French government, which wants the surveillance to cease, has also renewed demands for talks on protection of personal data. “This sort of practice between partners that invades privacy is totally unacceptable and we have to make sure, very quickly, that this no longer happens,” Mr Fabius said. According to the reports in French newspaper Le Monde techniques employed by the NSA included the recording of conversations from certain numbers, and sweeping up text messages based on keywords.

The most recent documents, dated to April 2013, also indicated the NSA’s interest in email addresses linked to French telecoms company Wanadoo — once part of France Telecom — and Alcatel-Lucent, the French-US telecom company.

By Mehr News Agency


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