James Clapper: Le Monde tapping claims are false
Intelligence chief James Clapper has denied reports that US spies recorded data from 70 million phone calls in France in a single 30-day period.
Director of US National Intelligence James Clapper said the report in French newspaper Le Monde contained “misleading information”.
In a separate story, Le Monde said the US bugged French diplomats and used the information to sway a key UN vote.
Both reports were based on leaks from former NSA employee Edward Snowden.
“Recent articles published in the French newspaper Le Monde contain inaccurate and misleading information regarding US foreign intelligence activities,” James Clapper said in a statement released on Tuesday.
“The allegation that the National Security Agency collected more than 70 million <<recordings of French citizens’ telephone data>> is false.”
James Clapper said he would not discuss details of surveillance activities, but acknowledged “the United States gathers intelligence of the type gathered by all nations”.
His statement did not mention the second set of allegations about the NSA programmes that allegedly monitored French diplomats in Washington and at the UN.
The paper laid out how US spies used computer bugs and phone-tapping techniques to monitor French diplomats at the UN and in Washington.
German magazine Der Spiegel had previously reported the monitoring of French diplomats, and the Washington Post had revealed the existence of a global cyber-spying programme called Genie.
But Le Monde‘s story gives details of how US agents used the intelligence, apparently gathered from French diplomats under the Genie programme.
The newspaper quotes a document issued by a directorate of the NSA as stating that the data helped the US sway a Security Council vote on a resolution imposing new sanctions on Iran on 9 June 2010.
The US had apparently feared losing the vote, and needed French support.
The document quotes America’s former UN envoy Susan Rice as saying the NSA’s information helped the US “keep one step ahead in the negotiations”.
On Monday, Le Monde alleged that the NSA spied on 70.3 million phone calls in France between December 10, 2012, and January 8, 2013.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said he had asked for a full explanation of those claims from US Secretary of State John Kerry.
Laurent Fabius told reporters he had reiterated the view of France that “this kind of spying conducted on a large scale by the Americans on its allies is something that is unacceptable”.
However, French officials played down the possibility of any reprisals.
Government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said: “We have to have a respectful relationship between partners, between allies. Our confidence in that has been hit but it is after all a very close, individual relationship that we have.”
Najat Vallaud-Belkacem was speaking before Le Monde‘s allegations about the UN vote were published.
Information leaked by Edward Snowden has led to claims of systematic spying by the NSA and CIA on a global scale.
Targets included rivals like China and Russia, as well as allies like the EU and Brazil.