French president François Hollande has been vocal in his objections to the U.S. bugging European institutions but, when the PRISM scandal broke, some criticized him for staying silent – after all, PRISM appears to have sucked in data from people all around the world, including France. Now, if a Le Monde scoop is to be believed, we know why Hollande held back.
The article, published on Thursday, claims that France’s intelligence agency, the DGSE, has its own PRISM-like scheme that collects metadata from communications within the country, as well as those flowing into and out of France. The data is reportedly stored in the DGSE’s basement, where the agency has a supercomputer to chew through it.
Other French intelligence services apparently also have access to this data. The program may be illegal, as French surveillance laws require case-by-case warrants.
France isn’t the only European country whose clandestine espionage activities have been exposed post-PRISM. Whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed a British program called Tempora, which involves the tapping of the internet’s backbone at locations around the world.
At the European level, there is some clear push-back against PRISM. Justice commissioner Viviane Reding said on Wednesday that her first list of questions to the U.S. about the program had not been satisfactorily answered in full, and further questions had since been sent across the Atlantic.
“The fact that the programs are said to relate to national security does not mean that anything goes,” Reding said.
However, the treaties that govern the European Union leave national security in the hands of individual member states, so it’s possible that – even under a revised data protection regime — European lawmakers will have their hands tied if the UK and France decide to legitimize and/or continue with their activities.