John Kerry on Allegations of NSA Spying on French Presidents: 'That Is Not Happening'

by Andrea Mitchell and Phil Helsel /  / Updated 

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Secretary of State John F. Kerry on Wednesday sought to quell a firestorm over allegations that the National Security Agency spied on French President Francois Hollande and two predecessors, saying "that is not happening."

WikiLeaks released documents late Tuesday that it said showed the NSA eavesdropped on the last three French presidents between 2006 and 2012.

Hollande’s office responded angrily to the allegations, saying “France will not tolerate actions that threaten its security and the protection of its interests” and summoning top ministers and military commanders for an emergency meeting.

Kerry said at a news conference that the documents released by WikiLeaks are old documents. “I can absolutely guarantee you there is no surveillance against, nor is there any targeting of President Hollande or of anybody that I know of within the French government,” Kerry said.

"I'm just telling you point blank: We are not and will not target the conversations of any friendly president, anybody that I know of, and certainly not President Hollande or the French Ministry," Kerry said. "That is not happening."

President Barack Obama called Hollande Wednesday and said the U.S. is not spying on him, the White House said. The U.S. has abided by a 2013 commitment that the U.S. would not target the communications of the French president, the White House said.

Intercepts published in French daily newspaper Liberation and investigative website Mediapart late Tuesday include material that appeared to capture officials in Paris talking candidly about Greece's economy and relations with Germany.

WikiLeaks said Hollande, a Socialist who at that point had been in power a few days, had expressed disappointment over his first meeting as president with conservative German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Former French presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac were also said to have been targeted.

The authenticity of the documents has not been confirmed. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said the French people "have a right to know that their elected government is subject to hostile surveillance from a supposed ally."

Kerry also said the U.S. had a "very frank discussion" with China in the wake of a massive cyberattack on the federal government that may have compromised the personal information of over 4 million current and former employees, and the U.S. is "deeply concerned" about cyber intrusions.

Senior U.S. officials have linked the cyberattack on the Office of Personnel Management to China. Kerry said he could not discuss the OPM hack because it is under investigation by the FBI. China has denied involvement.

"What we did was make it crystal clear that this is not acceptable and that we need to work through how all countries are going to behave," Kerry said.

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