Skip to main content

France and Spain, not NSA, responsible for spying on phone calls abroad, say US officials

France and Spain, not NSA, responsible for spying on phone calls abroad, say US officials

Share this story

US officials have told The Wall Street Journal that the NSA wasn't responsible for intercepting phone calls in France and Spain. Over the past two weeks, documents obtained by Le Monde in France and El Mundo in Spain showed that millions of phone calls in each country had been intercepted by the NSA. The unnamed officials, however, say that these calls were actually logged by French and Spanish intelligence agencies, then later given to the NSA. This corroborates a statement by Director of National Intelligence director James Clapper, who said that "the allegation that the National Security Agency collected more than 70 million 'recordings of French citizens' telephone data' [over 30 days] is false."

Officials said that the documents, leaked by Edward Snowden, have been misinterpreted: a slide describing NSA intelligence operations was actually based on data from France. After analyzing the document, they also said that the information described French intelligence collected abroad — so that $70 million number wasn't comprised of French citizens' phone calls. These officials apparently haven't seen the El Mundo document, but they suggest it also will reveal data collected by Spain outside its borders.

It's well known that intelligence is shared between countries, and this interpretation still means that the NSA was given access to the data. However, it would mean that the actual surveillance wasn't carried out by the agency, and that it wasn't purely domestic in those countries. Whichever interpretation is correct, it's essentially unrelated to the US surveillance of global power players, particularly German chancellor Angela Merkel, whose phone was tapped starting in 2002.