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Monday, October 21, 2013

France summons U.S. ambassador after report says NSA swept up 70.3M French phone records in a month

PARIS -  The U.S. National Security Agency swept up 70.3 million French telephone records in a 30-day period, according to a newspaper report that offered new details of the massive scope of a surveillance operation that has angered some of the country's closest allies. 

The French government on Monday summoned the U.S. ambassador for an explanation.

The report in Le Monde, co-written by Glenn Greenwald who originally revealed the NSA surveillance program, found that when certain numbers were used, the conversations were automatically recorded. 

The surveillance operation also swept up text messages based on key words, Le Monde reported, based on records from Dec. 10 to Jan 7.

The Le Monde reporting emerged as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Paris for diplomatic talks Monday about a peace process for Israel and Palestinian authorities.

"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," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said during a meeting in Luxembourg with his European counterparts. Fabius said the U.S. ambassador had been summoned to the Foreign Ministry.

CBS Radio News correspondent Elaine Cobbe reported that France has asked Ambassador Charles Rivkin for assurances that the activity has stopped. Kerry was to meet Fabius on Tuesday morning in Paris. 

The meeting was expected to focus on the ongoing crisis in Syria, but French officials have confirmed the NSA spying will now be on the agenda, too.

Similar programs have been revealed in Britain and Germany. In Brazil, the revelations so angered the president that she cancelled a state visit to Washington and publicly denounced the U.S. for "violation of human rights and of civil liberties."

Meanwhile, Mexico's government said Sunday it "categorically condemns" email spying, after a German news magazine reported that documents from NSA leaker Edward Snowden say the U.S. gained access to the email system of former Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

"This practice is unacceptable, illegitimate and contrary to Mexican law and international law," Mexico's Foreign Relations Department said in a statement.

The most recent documents cited by Le Monde, dated to April 2013, also indicated the NSA's interest in email addresses linked to Wanadoo - once part of France Telecom - and Alcatel-Lucent, the French-American telecom company. 

One of the documents instructed analysts to draw not only from the electronic surveillance program, but also from another initiative dubbed Upstream, which allowed surveillance on undersea communications cables.

Neither the U.S. Embassy nor State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki had immediate comment.

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