Surveillance

French police reveal system used by luxury goods firm LVMH to spy on journalist

France — Investigation

Two recent reports by French police have revealed in minute detail the spying system set up by the former head of France's domestic intelligence agency, Bernard Squarcini, on behalf of the giant luxury goods firm LVMH, which is owned by billionaire Bernard Arnault. Its target was journalist François Ruffin - who is now a Member of Parliament in France - and his publication Fakir. Fabrice Arfi reports.

Paris metro system tests CCTV system to monitor wearing of masks

France — Link

France's information privacy watchdog CNILL has expressed concerns that the Paris metro network has begun using software on CCTV images to monitor the wearing of face masks by passengers, which will be mandatory as France lifts its lockdown measures on Monday, while the private company leading the project insists no personal data is provided to the authorities.   

Carlos Ghosn and his taste for spooks

France — Investigation

Former Renault chief executive and Nissan chairman Carlos Ghosn's secret escape from Japan on December 29th, when he was allegedly smuggled out of the country in a musical instrument box by hired former special services veterans, was as dramatic as his arrest there one year earlier on charges of serious financial misconduct. But the manner of his flight bore all the hallmarks of the use over two decades by the one-time titan of the world’s carmaking industry of private security personnel, both to spy on his staff but also shareholders and board members. Mediapart's Matthieu Suc, author of a recent book detailing Ghosn’s seeming obsession with surveillance, reports.

Five dead as French surveillance plane crashes

France — Link

Three French defence ministry officials and two pilots, also French, were killed in crash as plane heading for Libya took off from Malta airport.

French constitutional council approves sweeping new mass surveillance powers

France — Link

The new law, brought after January Paris terror attacks, gives intelligence agencies arbitrary powers to tap phones, emails and to hack computers.

How the NSA spied on Merkel, her mobile, and the German chancellery

International — Investigation

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone features on a list of interception targets on a database of the US National Security Agency (NSA), Mediapart can reveal. In an investigation mounted with whistleblower website WikiLeaks, Mediapart details here how more than 50 phone numbers within the German chancellery, including voice and fax landlines into Merkel’s office and those of her senior staff, were for years the target of interceptions by the NSA. The revelations come just one month after German prosecutors dropped an investigation into earlier claims that the NSA tapped Merkel’s mobile due to what they said was a lack of evidence. Jérôme Hourdeaux and Mathieu Magnaudeix, in collaboration with Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, report.

France condemns 'unacceptable' spying on its presidents

Dossier: la France et l'Allemagne sur écoute

Within hours of the revelations by Mediapart and Libération, in conjunction with WikiLeaks, about US spying on three presidents, the French political world united in its condemnation of the actions. Even the Elysée, which had initially declined to comment when the story first broke, joined in the criticism of American espionage which it described bluntly as “unacceptable”. Meanwhile the American ambassador in Paris was called in by the foreign ministry to make clear France's unhappiness with the acts of espionage on presidents and other senior figures, while François Hollande chaired a defence committee meeting and met a delegation of Parliamentarians at the Elysée. The French president also had a telephone conversation with Barack Obama in which the American president promised the US was no longer spying on French heads of state.  Lénaïg Bredoux, Mathieu Magnaudeix and Ellen Salvi report.

US phone taps on France – why Paris would prefer to keep a low profile

France — Analysis

The revelations that the United States has been tapping the phones of presidents and others senior figures in the French state have provoked a major controversy. Politicians from all parties queued up on Wednesday morning to denounce the spying, revealed in leaked documents obtained by WikiLeaks and published by Mediapart and Libération. President François Hollande, himself revealed to be the target of phone taps in 2012, called a meeting of the government’s defence committee and met a delegation of 20 Parliamentarians at lunchtime to discuss the spying crisis. The Elysée meanwhile issued a statement describing the reported spying as “unacceptable”. But the spying will have come as no great surprise to the authorities in Paris who have known about or suspected such espionage for years. But France has never previously made a major public fuss about the issue for the simple reason that it, too, is part of a vast network involving exchanges of information between intelligence services around the world. And because it, too, cheerfully snoops on its friends. Moreover, the revelations came on the eve of the final vote on the government’s new and highly-controversial snooping legislation. Lénaïg Bredoux and Mathieu Magnaudeix report.

WikiLeaks documents on US snooping on France – what the presidents said

Dossier: la France et l'Allemagne sur écoute — Investigation

The leaked transcripts and reports on the phone taps carried out by the National Security Agency on three French presidents concern the current head of state, socialist François Hollande, and his right-wing predecessors Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac. The documents obtained by WikiLeaks and revealed here by Mediapart reveal the different priorities at the time of the three French heads of state, as well as their different styles. Hollande and his then-prime minister, Jean-Marc Ayrault, were discussing the Greek crisis, Sarkozy hoped to save the world from the financial crisis and Jacques Chirac was handing out detailed orders to his foreign minister. Lénaïg Bredoux and Ellen Salvi from Mediapart and Julian Assange of WikiLeaks report on what the presidents said.

France's 'spirit of January 11' or the ghost of a unity that passed

France — Opinion

Following the January 2015 terror attacks in and around Paris which left 20 people dead, including the three gunmen, there were huge marches held across France to express public outrage over the events. On Sunday January 11th, an estimated four million people took to the streets of the country’s major towns and cities, with an estimated two million in Paris alone. The French government, and in particular Prime Minister Manuel Valls, has since coined the phrase ‘the spirit of January 11’, using it repeatedly as a rallying call for national unity, notably as it drove through its recent law to introduce mass surveillance powers for the security services. But the recurrent references to what was a remarkable day have now turned sour, amid a heightening debate, as critics on the Right and Left accuse the government of attempting to invent a false conception for cynical political gain. One of them is Christian Salmon, a writer and researcher with the Paris-based Centre for Research in the Arts and Language. In this opinion article he argues that the ‘spirit of January 11’ has “evolved into a confusing scrum, a macabre dance with a cortege of grimacing masks, heroic posturing and denunciations”.

French parliament begins debating controversial surveillance bill

France — Link

The proposed new legislation aims to install sweeping spying powers to tackle terrorism, but which critics say place human rights under threat.

Tech firms threaten to leave France over mass surveillance moves

France — Link

Seven companies, including web-hosting and technology firms OVH, IDS and Gandi, said 'real-time capture of data' will force them into exile.

France tracking hundreds of terrorist 'sleeper cell' suspects

International — Link

French interior minister said 400 people are identified as terrorists-in-waiting who 'can strike like the Kouachi brothers' in Charlie Hebdo attack.

How the Paris terrorists slipped off intelligence radar

France — Investigation

The two brothers who last week carried out the shooting attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine were the object of separate surveillance operations by French intelligence services between 2011 and 2014, which was halted last summer after it apparently failed to uncover evidence that they were involved in terrorist activity, Mediapart can reveal. Meanwhile, the third terrorist, Amedy Coulibaly, who killed five people during the Paris terror attacks last week, fell completely off the radar of anti-terrorist services after his release in March last year from prison where he had been serving time for his involvement in a plot to free a convicted terrorist from jail. Fabrice Arfi reports.

US spy chief denies French phone surveillance report

International — Link

US intelligence chief James Clapper denies reports that US spies recorded data from 70 million phone calls in France in a single 30-day period.