The American National Security Agency (NSA) spied on 70.3 million phone calls in France in just 30 days at the end of last year, according to a report in Le Monde.
The capture of information was a part of the NSA's global intelligence-gathering operation "boundless informant" and was apparently triggered by certain keywords included in the plaintext of the messages.
France's foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, has summoned the US ambassador to discuss the allegations "immediately," and Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said he was "deeply shocked" by the revelations.
The French Prime Minister went on to say: "It's incredible that an allied country like the United States at this point goes as far as spying on private communications that have no strategic justification, no justification on the basis of national defence."
President Hollande has not yet commented.
The revelations emerged when the French daily acquired one of the thousands of documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden. The document in question was alleged to be a graph that describes the extent of telephone surveillance carried out across France.
Over a period of thirty days, from 10 December 2012 to 8 January 2013, over 70 million French telephone conversations were recorded by the NSA.
The programme was codenamed "US-985d", and saw telephone calls systematically recorded, and text messages saved, along with their metadata (sender, recipient, date etc.)
The acronyms used by the NSA for the same type of interception in Germany were "US-987LA" and "US-987LB," though no explanation of the designations has yet been provided.
One programme, known as "DRTBOX," was apparently responsible for the mass-recording of calls, while another, codenamed "WHITEBOX" was capable of recording only 7.8 million over a similar period.
The documents suggest that not only people with suspected links to terrorist groups were targeted, but anyone with significant position in the world of business, politics, or the French administration.
In Europe, only the UK and Germany registered a greater number of call interceptions, but in the UK this was done with the consent of our government.
France has been targeted by surveillance before. Last year, the Élysée Palace, the official residence of the President, said that it had discovered a "powerful worm" in its computer network, one that could collect files on a machine, take screenshots, and even activate the microphone on a computer in order to record conversations.
While there was no evidence linking the US to the worm, its three-letter agencies were one of the culprits most-speculated about in the French press, and such an attack would be well within the capability of the NSA.
The allegations have emerged immediately in the wake of another NSA scandal, the disclosure that the agency hacked into the private email account of the Mexican President.
Stay tuned, as we'll continue to report on NSA revelations as they emerge.
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