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Hollande tells Obama of "deep disapproval" over US spying

France and Mexico have joined the list of US allies angry over reports of spying, following more leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

France's President Francois Hollande
France's President Francois Hollande
Image: Francois Mori/AP/Press Association Images

THE UNITED STATES has become embroiled in a new row over its controversial spying programme as allies France and Mexico condemned revelations Washington tapped millions of phonecalls and hacked into leaders’ emails.

French President Francois Hollande has expressed his “deep disapproval” of reports of US spying in a phone call with President Barack Obama.

France’s Le Monde newspaper reported that the US National Security Agency had secretly monitored 70.3 million phone communications in France over 30 days from 10 December, 2012, to 8 January this year.

The allegations, the latest from leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, also marred a visit to Paris by US Secretary of State John Kerry, where he discussed moves to try to end the war in Syria.

Former president

At the same time, German weekly Der Spiegel reported the NSA had also hacked into former Mexican president Felipe Calderon’s email account.

Calderon, on Twitter, described the revelations as an “affront to the institutions of the country, given that it took place when I was president”.

Hollande told Obama that the alleged practices were “unacceptable between friends and allies because they infringe on the privacy of French citizens”, the French leader’s office said in a statement.

The allegations come on top of previous revelations by Snowden — who has sought safety in Russia as US authorities pursue him for leaking classified information — that the United States had a vast, secret programme called PRISM to monitor Internet users.

French prosecutors are already investigating the programme, and French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said he was “deeply shocked” by the new revelations.

“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,” he told journalists.

John Kerry

Kerry refused to comment on the specific accusations, but noted that Washington was reviewing its intelligence gathering operations following protests from allied governments.

He also sought to defend the US position.

“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,” Kerry said at a press conference after meeting Arab League officials.

“Lots of countries are engaged in the activity of trying to protect their citizens in the world,” he said. “Our goal is always to try to find the right balance between protecting the privacy and security of our citizens.”

According to Le Monde, the spy agency automatically picked up communications from certain phone numbers in France and recorded certain text messages under a programme code-named “US-985D”.

The French daily said the documents gave grounds to believe that the NSA targeted not only people suspected of being involved in terrorism but also high-profile individuals in business and politics.

© AFP

Read: Snowden insists Russia has no access to NSA files >

Column : The drama surrounding Manning and Snowden is diverting attention from what matters >

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