France defends surveillance program, denies “massive spying”

French officials downplayed reports of a large-scale surveillance program that blends phone and internet data, and claimed that a story in the Le Monde newspaper was “inaccurate” and “hardly resembled reality.”
The response, which echoes that of the response by American officials to the controversial PRISM program, comes after Le Monde reported earlier this week that France’s intelligence agency, the DGSE, was collecting mass amounts of communications data and pooling it alongside information from other agencies, including the customs department.
The revelations may explain why France’s President, Francois Hollande, has been relatively quiet over the U.S. PRISM controversy and is likely to provide more grist for the debate over data collection in Europe.
In its response to the Le Monde story, a French government spokesman told the paper that all of its data requests were traceable and in compliance with a 1991 law that requires a judge’s permission to intercept information. A legislator from Hollande’s party, however, went further in a blog post:
“French citizens are not subject to massive and permanent spying outside of all control,” wrote Jean-Jacques Urvoas, who is president of the commission on laws in the l’Assemblée nationale. Urvoas also said the French program was not “clandestine and illegal … like that of the NSA in America.”
The comments on espionage comes as senior politicians in Europe express outrage over America’s surveillance practices and even urge EU citizens to shun American cloud-based computer services. Some observers, including the Wall Street Journal, have accused the politicians of show-boating and called the outrage “one of the better recent Claude Rains’s routines.” (You can watch that routine below)
Image by auremar via Shutterstock.