NSA Spied on Mexican Government and French Political, Business Networks

Wednesday, October 23, 2013
U.S. Ambassador Charles Rivkin after meeting with French officials (photo: Thibault Camus, AP)

The National Security Agency (NSA) has been caught spying on foreign leaders and ordinary citizens in France and Mexico, resulting in at least one U.S. ambassador getting an earful from French officials.


The French government summoned American Ambassador Charles Rivkin on Monday to demand an explanation for why the NSA had collected phone and Internet data of French citizens.


The French newspaper Le Monde reported that the U.S. spy agency had been intercepting French phone calls on “a massive scale.”


Using information disclosed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, Le Monde said that more than 70 million French phone calls were recorded in just one 30-day period late last year.


The communications gathering, which included text messages, involved not only those with suspected terrorist links, but also people in business, politics and the French administration.


French officials called the spying “totally unacceptable” and demanded that it cease, according to The New York Times. (In July, Le Monde reported that the French government operates its own massive surveillance program that intercepts French citizens’ phone and Internet activity.)


The NSA also was caught hacking into emails belonging to Mexico’s former president, Felipe Calderón.


In May 2010, the agency “successfully exploited a key mail server in the Mexican Presidencia domain within the Mexican Presidential network to gain first-ever access to President Felipe Calderon’s public email account,” according to an NSA document classified as “top secret,” the German newspaper Der Spiegel reported.


NSA documents obtained by Der Spiegel showed the email domain was also used by cabinet members, and contained “diplomatic, economic and leadership communications which continue to provide insight into Mexico’s political system and internal stability.” The agency described the president’s office as “a lucrative source” of information.


The NSA—which labeled the operation “Flatliquid”—hacked into the email account using an internal division called Tailored Access Operations (TAO), which the agency uses for difficult missions involving special targets, according to the documents.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

France in the NSA's Crosshair: Phone Networks Under Surveillance (by Jacques Follorou and Glenn Greenwald, Le Monde)

Snowden Leaks: France Summons US Envoy over NSA Surveillance Claims (by Angelique Chrisafis and Sam Jones, The Guardian)

French Condemn Surveillance by N.S.A. (by Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times)

Fresh Leak on US Spying: NSA Accessed Mexican President's Email (by Jens Glüsing, Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark; Der Spiegel)

NSA Spying on Latin American Countries Included Targeting of Trade Secrets (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)  

Concerned U.S. Allies Want Privacy Guarantees in Wake of NSA Revelations (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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