Espionage by the US on France has already strained relations between the two countries, threatening a trans-Atlantic trade agreement. Now a document seen by SPIEGEL reveals that the NSA also spied on the French Foreign Ministry.
America’s National Security Agency (NSA) targeted France’s Foreign Ministry for surveillance, according to an internal document seen by SPIEGEL.
Dated June 2010, the “top secret” NSA document reveals that the intelligence agency was particularly interested in the diplomats’ computer network. All of the country’s embassies and consulates are connected with the Paris headquarters via a virtual private network (VPN), technology that is generally considered to be secure.
Accessing the Foreign Ministry’s network was considered a “success story,” and there were a number of incidents of “sensitive access,” the document states.
An overview lists different web addresses tapped into by the NSA, among them “diplomatie.gouv.fr,” which was run from the Foreign Ministry’s server. A list from September 2010 says that French diplomatic offices in Washington and at the United Nations in New York were also targeted, and given the codenames “Wabash” and “Blackfoot,” respectively. NSA technicians installed bugs in both locations and conducted a “collection of computer screens” at the one at the UN.
A priority list also names France as an official target for the intelligence agency. In particular, the NSA was interested in the country’s foreign policy objectives, especially the weapons trade, and economic stability.
US-French relations are being strained by such espionage activities. In early July, French President François Hollande threatened to suspend negotiations for a trans-Atlantic free trade agreement, demanding a guarantee from the US that it would cease spying after it was revealed that the French embassy in Washington had been targeted by the NSA.
“There can be no negotiations or transactions in all areas until we have obtained these guarantees, for France but also for all of the European Union, for all partners of the United States,” he said at the time.
The NSA declined to comment to SPIEGEL on the matter. As details about the scope of the agency’s international spying operations continue to emerge, Washington has come under increasing pressure from its trans-Atlantic partners. Officials in Europe have expressed concern that negotiations for the trade agreement would be poisoned by a lack of trust.