If the NSA’s international surveillance is in the headlines, it’s bad news for the Obama Administration, and means more efforts at damage control as allies express anger at being targeted.
Today it’s France’s turn, with the revelation that the NSA recorded 70.3 million French phone calls in a single month. This isn’t the meta-data scandal that has rocked the US, but full recording of the content of the calls, with French businesses and politicians at the top of the target list.
French President Francois Hollande expressed “deep disapproval” of the US practices, saying they were unacceptable for nations that are supposed to be allies and infringes on the privacy of ordinary French citizens.
Hollande’s condemnation follows similar ones from German, Brazilian and Mexican leaders, among others. The French government’s own surveillance practices are much harsher than, say, Germany, however, so that the Hollande government perceived the US as having gone too far really says something about the scope of the US spying.
Secretary of State John Kerry and President Obama have both contacted Hollande in an effort to placate him, insisting that the international press have “distorted” their activities and defending the spying in general on the grounds that all nations have spies.