The French government has summoned the US ambassador in Paris to provide an explanation for fresh Edward Snowden revelations about the NSA.
According to reports this morning in Le Monde, the American National Security Agency recorded more than 70 million phone calls made France over the course of just 30 days.
If accurate, the reports are the latest indicator of the extraordinary reaching of US electronic spying, and come alongside the news that agents also hacked the email account of former Mexican president Felipe Calderon.
The French interior minister, Manuel Valls, told reporters at an EU meet in Luxembourg: “I have immediately summoned the US ambassador and he will be received this morning at the Quai d'Orsay [French Foreign Ministry].”
“Rules are obviously needed when it comes to new communication technologies, and that's something that concerns every country,” he the Europe-1 radio station. “If a friendly country – an ally – spies on France or other European countries, that is completely unacceptable.”
Le Monde’s story, which included the byline of the outgoing Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, said that the communications of prominent businessmen and politicians were spied on alongside those of suspected security threats.
It said the NSA had targeted Orange and Alcatel-Lucent – two of the biggest network operators in France – and that it used keyword technology and lists of certain types of numbers to automatically pick up millions of records a day.
The 70.3 million pieces of data came from 10 December 2012 and 8 January 2013, and it was not made clear whether they included the full content of conversations or just the metadata – the information of who, when and where the call was made.
The programme of surveillance, codenamed US-985D, also reportedly stored millions of intercepted text messages.
The article followed reports in the German weekly Der Spiegel that the NSA accessed the email account of Felipe Calderon, the former Mexican president. Mexico said it would be seeking an explanation from US officials “as soon as possible”.
Mr Snowden, a former contractor with the NSA who first went public about US surveillance techniques in June, warned then that he had gigabytes of data full of other revelations, to be released over time.
He is currently a refugee at an unknown location in Russia, after he was granted one year’s asylum on the condition, president Vladimir Putin said, that he stop leaking US secrets.
It is not known whether today’s revelations come straight from Mr Snowden himself, or if they are part of a large stock of data given in bulk to journalists at an earlier date.
The US has, as with other Snowden stories, refused to comment on what it calls confidential information.
Officials nonetheless referred Le Monde to a statement made in June, in which US director of national intelligence James Clapper defended the NSA’s programmes.
“They are lawful and conducted under authorities widely known and discussed, and fully debated and authorised by Congress,” he said. “Their purpose is to obtain foreign intelligence information, including information necessary to thwart terrorist and cyber-attacks against the United States and its allies.”