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French Gov't Runs Vast Electronic Spying Operation of Its Own 214

Posted by timothy
from the but-it's-only-wafer-thin-metadata dept.
Freshly Exhumed writes with this news (quoting The Guardian): "France runs a vast electronic surveillance operation, intercepting and stocking data from citizens' phone and internet activity, using similar methods to the U.S. National Security Agency's Prism programme exposed by Edward Snowden, Le Monde has reported. An investigation by the French daily [en français; Google translation] found that the DGSE, France's external intelligence agency, had spied on the French public's phone calls, emails and internet activity. The agency intercepted signals from computers and phones in France as well as between France and other countries, looking not so much at content but to create a map of 'who is talking to whom,' the paper said."
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French Gov't Runs Vast Electronic Spying Operation of Its Own

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  • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @02:09PM (#44189341) Homepage Journal
    Now taking bets on which country will be implicated next in sketchy and/or illegal domestic monitoring.
    • Now taking bets on which country will be implicated next in sketchy and/or illegal domestic monitoring.

      Post the house odds first, dear... I want to know where Antigua and Barbuda are on the list... because I'm guessing long odds there and I intend to "leak" their intelligence operation to the Washington Post shortly after you put it up.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      I suspect most if not all nations do it to some extent, the questions are which ones and to what extent.

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        I suspect most if not all nations do it to some extent, the questions are which ones and to what extent.

        ...and how many of them profess to be the "Land of the Free".

        • I suspect most if not all nations do it to some extent, the questions are which ones and to what extent.

          ...and how many of them profess to be the "Land of the Free".

          Every single one of them, with their own choices of words of course.

          The USA wasn't always like this, and citizens in general believe the propaganda fed to them and live it as an ideal. But many people believing this scam actually managed to make themselves and their country better.
          That's why I still sing the national anthem, for those honoring

        • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

          I suspect most if not all nations do it to some extent, the questions are which ones and to what extent.

          ...and how many of them profess to be the "Land of the Free".

          No that's not the problem. Spying on your citizens is fine. Everybody knows they do it. As usual what gets them in trouble is denying they're doing it. As soon as they were aware that Snowden had the data, which was hopefully before he went public, but who knows, they should have released that they were doing this. People wouldn't have liked it, but it wouldn't be a scandal. It's not the deed that gets you in trouble, its the denial and cover-up.

          • by 0111 1110 (518466)

            No that's not the problem. Spying on your citizens is fine.

            Speak for yourself. 1984 was never intended to be an instruction manual. Is that really the kind of society you want to live in? Your every communication monitored like you are some kind of lab animal?

            • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

              No that's not the problem. Spying on your citizens is fine.

              Speak for yourself. 1984 was never intended to be an instruction manual. Is that really the kind of society you want to live in? Your every communication monitored like you are some kind of lab animal?

              You miss the point. The government is already spying on its people and was doing so long before the information age. Technology has only made it easier. Most people knew or already suspected that. One only has to look at the history of the FBI or McCarthyism to realize that it has been going on in the US ages. However, both the FBI and McCarthyism were more or less public spying. Nobody denied it was going on. The NSA got caught spying on the public after saying they weren't. That is why it is such a scan

              • by F.Ultra (1673484)
                That they have done it for a long time doesn't make it right! And even if they have been doing it for a long time, there was an even longer time when they didn't do it. For example the US didn't even have an intelligence agency until after WWII, and in no way was the FBI of 193x and 194x involved in mass surveillance of the public.
                • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

                  That they have done it for a long time doesn't make it right! And even if they have been doing it for a long time, there was an even longer time when they didn't do it. For example the US didn't even have an intelligence agency until after WWII, and in no way was the FBI of 193x and 194x involved in mass surveillance of the public.

                  I never said or implied it was right, but the outrage that has been expressed isn't that they have been doing it. Everybody knows they have been doing it. The outrage is that they lied and said they weren't doing it and then Snowden released the documents showing they actually were.

                  As for US intelligence capabilities prior to the WWII and the FBI, you are free to believe what ever you want so you can sleep easy, but the Library of Congress has many volumes documenting what was going on now that much of it h

        • by hedwards (940851)

          I doubt there's any that overtly claim to be "land of the slaves and home of the despots."

          It's a skewed view of the world to suggest that nations don't cover it up or otherwise obscure what they're doing. The worst nations often times have huge propaganda campaigns to convince the citizenry not to be concerned about it.

        • by meta-monkey (321000) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @04:40PM (#44190269) Journal

          Yeah, but when we do it, it's not spying, it's Freedom Listening.

      • by H0p313ss (811249)

        I suspect most if not all nations do it to some extent, the questions are which ones and to what extent.

        It's not a question of who is spying, it's a question of who is going to get caught spying.

        Honestly if I was working for GCHQ or NSA my response would be: "Of course we're bloody spying, that's what you damn well pay us to do."

        • by 0111 1110 (518466)

          I believe the original intent of the GCHQ and NSA was to spy on foreign enemies for the purpose of winning wars either current wars or expected ones. So I don't think just saying, "that's what you pay us to do." would be a very good defense. Unless you want to make it sound like your own citizens are the enemy.

          Armed forces are paid to kill, but that doesn't work as an excuse for a Tiananmen Square massacre. "Well you pay us to kill. We were just doing what you pay us for. And I think we did a good job becau

          • by H0p313ss (811249)

            Shoot the messenger much? It's the political bosses that are to blame, not the foot soldiers.

            • I refer you to the Nuremberg Principle IV [wikipedia.org]

              Principle IV states: "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him".

              This principle could be paraphrased as follows: "It is not an acceptable excuse to say 'I was just following my superior's orders'".

              There is always a choice not to follow. One could take the courageous example of acting attorney general James Com [theverge.com]

          • by hedwards (940851)

            What needs to happen is for their charters to be changed to reflect that.

            But, OTOH, that would mean this would fall to the FBI that was chartered for this sort of thing, and it's not like they have a particularly pristine track record to crow about either.

            It's a fine line and as long as politicians are tripping over themselves to be harder on terrorists without any particular concern for protecting the rights of innocent Americans, it will continue.

          • by F.Ultra (1673484)
            According to "The Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA", all that Truman really wanted was a news agency that could give him summaries of political trends in foreign countries so he could make informed decisions in foreign policy.
    • by bfandreas (603438)
      I'm not betting on the German services since they managed to claim for 30 years there's no such thing as right-wing terrorism in Germany. And not huge data gathering clued them in but sheer dumb luck did. Our guys genuinely have no clue whatsoever.

      Yet still this is the time to ask in what way this mass trawling for information actually helped preventing any bullshit going down. Sure as hell helped in law enforcement but good old-fashioned targeted information gathering by lawenforcement gets the job done,
    • Canada and every first-world country.

  • See!!? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FriendlyLurker (50431) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @02:11PM (#44189363)
    Everyone is doing it. It must be ok then... so move along, "don't rock the boat - keep your head down Just another fool in the crowd"...

    /sarcasm

    • by Dcnjoe60 (682885)

      Everyone is doing it. It must be ok then... so move along, "don't rock the boat - keep your head down Just another fool in the crowd"...

      /sarcasm

      No, it doesn't make it okay, but like most things, lying about it definitely makes it worse.

    • Everyone is doing it. It must be ok then... so move along, "don't rock the boat - keep your head down Just another fool in the crowd"...

      /sarcasm

      I have little doubt that each country has a specific legal regime that enables their intelligence agencies to engage in their work in a manner that is lawful to their own country. As is repeatedly pointed out on Slashdot, Europeans are not under American law. By the same token, Americans are not under European law. And Germans are not under British law. The French are not under Swedish law. ..... Feel free to mentally complete the combinatorial exercise.

  • by girlintraining (1395911) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @02:12PM (#44189373)

    This has been known publicly since the release of the book the Sword and the Shield in the 1990s, and well-known by most larger companies since well before that even. We're persecuting Snowden for being the Captain Obvious of the intelligence community. "Oh noes! The french are spying on us!" Dude. Fucking duh. The french have been spying on everyone since the dark ages. Hell, where do you think the word sabateur comes from? The french pretty much invented industrial espionage.

    In other news... why are we threatening the lives of other countries leaders and going on a mad witch hunt for Snowden, wheeling and dealing in backroom deals reminiscent of the cold war era again? Oh right... because he came forward and confirmed what everyone either already suspected, or knew. Which was only necessary because so many people are living in a level of denial that makes the comment "Windows 8 is the best operating system ever!" look like criticism. -_-

    • by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @02:21PM (#44189443)

      "Saboteur" refers to the practice of ruining the innards of weaving machines by throwing in your shoes - a type of wooden clog called a "sabot". It has no espionage connotations at all.

      And it probably originates in the Netherlands.

      • by Jmc23 (2353706)
        Interesting. Though there's a kernel of truth in what you wrote, it's hard to find in the misunderstanding.

        Thanks anyways though.

      • Ever heard about semantic drift? http://fr.wiktionary.org/wiki/saboter#Verbe.C2.A01 [wiktionary.org]

        No, you cannot disagree. I'm a native speaker, as well as a language graduate.
      • Neat story, I looked it up. Maybe not that simple where it originated however.
        http://saboteur.askdefine.com/ [askdefine.com]

      • by Bradmont (513167)
        Interestingly, the word "espionage" actually *does* come from the French "espion," for spy, and "espionage," for spying.
    • by caluml (551744)

      The word saboteur [etymonline.com] is French, I think.

    • by chill (34294)

      They're persecuting Snowden for removing plausible deniability. By rubbing everyone's nose in this, the powers that be can no longer make silly hand gestures to the general public and claim "paranoid conspiracy nonsense!" and "that's what you get for believing Hollywood fairy tales".

      Of course, the only thing most of the general public is going to bitch about is how the NSA is messing with the voting on American Idol.

    • by tyrione (134248)
      Witch hunt? Thanks for the laugh.
    • Keep in mind, you have no idea what he hasn't released yet. They might not know what he has either. From the reports I've read he did not have access to some of the systems the data he released came from so either he found some security holes or he had accomplices. In either case he could have access to practically anything and they have no idea what. Their gusto in going after him is very telling indeed. Weather he has it or not, they clearly have something they don't want revealed. The fact that the media

  • by Anonymous Coward

    France does have a huge population of immigrants from N. Africa who after escaping their oppressive Third World shitholes, riot and protest in France because they don't like the society they live in or some such non-sense.

    It's the same formula - leave oppressive fundamentalist Islamic society for a Western one and then riot because your new country doesn't have oppressive Islamic laws.

    And they wonder why they're prejudiced against.

    • by Cenan (1892902)

      For the love of all that is unholy, how the fuck did this go to +2 Insightful? France has a huge population of pretty much any ethnicity you can think of, thanks to aggressive emperialistic aspirations for hundreds of years (Hello, Vietnam war). You're gonna have to either start sharing those 'shrooms you've been gulping, or take it down a notch, you're gonna have a stroke.

    • by Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @02:51PM (#44189643)

      France does have some pretty hardcore racists, the National Front party is quite popular. The rioters however are usually second or third generation who complain they aren't being given equal opportunities in employment or education. How true this is I don't know, but having lived in France for quite a while I'd say it's entirely possible.

      • by NicBenjamin (2124018) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @06:42PM (#44191115)

        From what I've seen France really sucks at integrating immigrants. the only French pol I can name with non-French ancestry would be Sarkozy, and Sarko's family has been in the country for roughly a century.

        In the US he'd be an old-line blueblood. In France the National Front thought he was un-French.

        Europe as a whole seems to suck at integrating immigrants. Which is unfortunate, because basically the entire point of the EU is to allow random Romanians to get jobs in London.

    • You know what pisses them off?

      Western Christians who hear a Muslim is angry, and automatically assume said Muslim could only be angry because he's not living under Sharia. That is exactly the same as saying a white Christian who is angry must be angry that the feudal system has been dismantled.

      Check out the prosecution of Bouchra Bagour. She has a terrible sense of humor, but if you want to impose Sharia Law on France generally you don't get a middle class office job, dress like a western woman, etc.

      If you'

  • Yes and no (Score:5, Informative)

    by silviuc (676999) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @02:18PM (#44189423) Homepage
    Al EU nations have to abide by an EU directive that requires telecom companies and internet service providers to record and store the meta-data.

    Read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Data_Retention_Directive [wikipedia.org]

    The article is worded such that I don't yet understand whether the data was stocked for years (because the directive does impose time limits) or if the program has been going for years which is accurate since the directive was issued in 2006.
  • by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @02:18PM (#44189425)

    Well, duh. Of course they do - this is France, the country that made cryptography illegal [cryptolaw.org] until it was pointed out to them that this was destroying their ability to participate in electronic commerce.

    • by BioTitan (2624413)
      Now I think of it, a lot of countries banned crypto. Remember when all the different countries were banning Blackberries because they couldn't tap them?
  • iNSAption (Score:5, Funny)

    by knotprawn (1935752) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @02:21PM (#44189447)
    This is not unexpected, but each revelation just makes the whole situation seem more and more hilarious. The following scenario is probably playing itself out somewhere right now.

    NSA Agent 1: "Sir, we've intercepted a French transmission that I think you should take a look at"

    NSA Agent 2: "Why, what does it say?"

    (Transcript of translated Transmission reads) "Sir, we've intercepted an American transmission that I think you should take a look at"
  • by nospam007 (722110) * on Thursday July 04, 2013 @02:25PM (#44189469)

    Here's their own English Translation, just the graphics are only in the french version.

    http://www.lemonde.fr/societe/article/2013/07/04/revelations-on-the-french-big-brother_3442665_3224.html [lemonde.fr]

  • I suppose that they could had intercepted all the communication i sent to france based search engines, social networks and mail servers, if ever happened that. But as im not in france, not even in europe, odds that it happened are pretty low. In the other hand, in US most if not all central internet services are located there, my communication with other regions of the world usually goes thru there, and even if not, they went actively going against networks and services located other countries [scmp.com]. Could be deb
    • Somebody who believes that Human Rights have legal standing. How cute.

      International law is a deal between the 190-odd nation-states of the world. They have agreed to recognize certain rights in solemn treaties that are not actually legally binding. No court in the US is going to invalidate any death penalty on the basis of international law. Many of these states have included some rights in either their domestic law codes or their Constitutions. In both cases any actual legal case involving those rights wil

  • will be the Netherlands. Word got around, today, that the major Dutch telecom providers have been doing exactly the same thing for several years, in a completely illegal setting.
  • Looks to me like all the major western democracies are engaging in this sort of thing.

    The original article seems to indicate that this is actually illegal in France. Interesting. At least they could have passed a secret law and set up a secret court to make it appear better.

    Who next to be exposed? Germany? Surely with the all those ex-Ministerium fur Staatssicherheit employees to draw from it would have been easy.

    • Keep in mind that if they're reporting on this they're likely privacy advocates, and privacy advocates tend to have a much more expansive view of what is private then the Courts do.

      For example state-side you have the right to not talk to the police, but refusing to talk to police can be considered probable cause to get a warrant. It can also be used as evidence against you during your trial. Every privacy advocate hates this, and when the Supremes recently confirmed it there were terrabytes of counter-argum

    • So much for the idea that the US is uniquely evil

      ...which is nothing more than the 10,000th iteration of "nothing to see here, move along" buuuuuuuuullshit concern trolling. Yeah, we really all have heard of Echelon, Stasi, Carnivor, the Great Wall of China, COINTELPRO, etc etc. Really.

      Wrong is wrong, it doesn't matter who's doing it, or how long it's been around.

  • Seems like their shit does stink after all. Gotta love that haughty European hypocrisy, and their outrage over American practices. Of course I expect this sort of thing from politicians and the like, but real people are another story. Certainly not all Europeans are like this, but enough to be annoying. I'm as far as you can get from a wrap yourself in the flag and say everything about America is wonderful type, but I do get sick of "you Americans" type posts. It's especially ironic coming from Britons, con

    • I'll agree the French are hypocrites on these issues. But the French Republic is pretty unique that way. The French are incredibly Machiavellian.

      I'll be stunned if the Swedes, Germans, or any other northern European state gets caught up in this dragnet.

      • I'll be stunned if the Swedes, Germans, or any other northern European state gets caught up in this dragnet.

        You mean they're better at not getting caught?

        • Umm...

          Apparently you know nothing about Africa. In Sweden/Germany/etc. nobody ever sides with an anti-Democrat against a Democrat just to get another vote in the UN General Assembly. If the guy selling guns to third-world gives bribes in Northern Europe he gets outted by his home country, and the bribee gets to go to jail.

          France, OTOH, was recently faced with a situation where the French-allied-government was accused of using hundreds of thousands of Chinese machetes which he intended to hack his political

    • by 0111 1110 (518466)

      You do realize that France is not the only country in Europe, right? They have the best cheese and bread and pastries and the prettiest girls and the most beautiful language and overall probably some of the best food if you can afford it, but there are other countries. I mean, they do exist even if they cannot bake a croissant to save their lives.

  • This is not news (Score:4, Insightful)

    by HangingChad (677530) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @03:24PM (#44189829) Homepage

    Long before the Chinese were the country in the hotseat for spying, France and Israel were already established professionals in the industrial espionage arena.

    Before traveling overseas in the late 80s and early 90s we got lectures about how the French probably had bugs and cameras in our hotel rooms and that they routinely spied on visitors.

    Just like the NSA spying shouldn't have been news, but most people act surprised. Seriously, what's the next headline we're going to wake up to? That the Koch family has been funding a vast propaganda network to influence public opinion? That the Chinese have stolen the design of every nuclear warhead in our arsenal? That Pakistan is giving safe harbor to terrorists? Or the FBI was been tipped off and missed both 9/11 and the Boston Marathon bombers?

    It's like living in Groundhog Day.

    • by PPH (736903)

      Yeah. But the French never really hid the fact that they were spying on their own population. Look at their restrictions on encryption and similar technologies and try to come up with alternate justifications.

      Fortunately, thanks to France's policies on linguistic purism [wikipedia.org], if you insert a few borrowed English words, the authorities are not allowed to listen.

    • Unfortunately the masses do not know these things.

      Which means that now the various government have to spend weeks complaining about each-other's spies, whicl quietly re-assuring everyone nothing's changed, and prying no Wikileaks-type group has evidence they're lying asses off...

      I'm guessing the next "revelation" is gonna be that it's really hard to be gay in Africa. The only drawback is that it doesn't embarrass anyone Putin dislikes, therefore it's unlikely to make headlines in Le Monde or the Guardian.

  • We're all curious about exactly what data they have, but it shouldn't take more than a sternly worded letter to get the French government to surrender all the data...

  • by 0111 1110 (518466) on Thursday July 04, 2013 @05:45PM (#44190695)

    I figure there are a few possibilities. The first, and the one that I favor, is that the CIA or NSA is ultimately responsible for this leak about France. If there's one thing the US needs right now it is to spread the blame. To show that other people are doing the same. To some people that will seem like a valid defense.

    A second possibility is that Snowden, despite his predicament, inspired a French agent to do the same, except anonymously. I find this only slightly less probable than the first possibility.

    And finally there is the possibility that the timing is a complete coincidence. I think it's more likely that the moon is made of cheese, but I suppose it is not impossible.

  • Every nation on earth that can spy at any given level does exactly that. This is why you have nation states which have the technological means to spy keeping their mouths shut about the whole Snowden affair. This is also why backwaters like Bolivia and Ecuador are quick to condemn and make an uproar about the whole thing.

    Those countries that can spy, do, those that can't, don't - but they would if they could. Why do you think Russia bluntly asked Snowden to stop leaking documents if he wanted asylum? In the

  • Of course french people should be concerned, but it is worth noting that this is not PRISM: There is no access to Gmail mailboxes for instance. And as a proof the scope is much smaller than NSA's spying is the size of the datacenter, which fits in a building inside Paris.

    But while we get upset, we should not miss why this is revealed right now, while it was obviously known for some time, with parliamentary reports dealing about it. IMO the goal is to minimize Snowden's leaks so that everyone forget about hi

    • by SeaFox (739806)

      Of course french people should be concerned, but it is worth noting that this is not PRISM: There is no access to Gmail mailboxes for instance. And as a proof the scope is much smaller than NSA's spying is the size of the datacenter, which fits in a building inside Paris.

      And I'm sure the U.S. having almost five times the population of France, and being such a major hub for world Internet activity, has nothing to do with that...

      • by manu0601 (2221348)
        I did not say anything else. If we limit the discussion to telecom metadata retention, I understand the difference is that US spies the world while France mostly spies its own citizen. That is a few billions against a few millions, hence the difference of datacenter size.
  • If ever there was a perfect chance to use the "I'm shocked, SHOCKED" meme, it would be here.

"There is hopeful symbolism in the fact that flags do not wave in a vacuum." --Arthur C. Clarke

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