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4th Jul 2022

US spy agency targets French firms

  • The NSA intercepted 70 million telephone records of French citizens within a 30-day period (Photo: Valentina Pop)

Documents seen by French daily Le Monde say the US intelligence agency, the NSA, obtained over 70 million telephone records of French citizens within a 30-day period.

The American spy dragnet took place between 10 December 2012 and 8 January 2013, reports Le Monde on Monday (21 October).

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The paper says certain key words, detected by the NSA system, would launch an automatic recording of the telephone conversation. Text messages were also hoovered up.

The NSA programme is called US-985D.

Aside from terrorists, the programme is likely to have also targeted French businesses, politicians, and government officials, the paper reports.

A code within the programme, entitled "DRTBOX," was used to collect the data of 62.5 million telephone calls. A second code entitled "WHITEBOX" was used to record 7.8 million calls.

Wanadoo, a former subsidiary of France Telecom, and Alcatel-Lucent are said to have piqued the NSA’s interest.

Alcatel-Lucent Submarine Networks (ASN), an Alcatel-Lucent subsidiary, operates submarine optic fibre cables.

Earlier revelations reported by The Guardian and the Washington Post indicate that US and UK intelligence agencies are able to sweep up large data sets by directly tapping into such cables via a programme called "upstream."

Underwater cable networks are said to carry up to 80 percent of the world’s communications.

“There is no reason not to think that the American agency is also connected to a number of other French addresses, starting with those of Orange, SFR, Bouygues or Free,” writes Le Monde.

Another document seen by the paper says that, on a global scale, the NSA intercepted 124.8 billion telephone calls between 8 February and 8 March.

Pegasus spyware makers grilled by MEPs

"We will not continue to work with a customer that is targeting a journalist illegally," Chaim Gelfand, chief compliance officer of NSO Group told MEPs — but shed little light on EU governments' use of its Pegasus spyware.

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