France’s DGSE ‘intercepts computer and telephone data on a vast scale’
France’s foreign intelligence service intercepts computer and telephone data on a vast scale, like the controversial US Prism programme, according to the French daily Le Monde.
The data is stored on a supercomputer at the headquarters of the DGSE intelligence service, the paper says.
The operation is “outside the law, and beyond any proper supervision”, Le Monde says.
Other French intelligence agencies allegedly access the data secretly.
The DGSE allegedly analyses the “metadata” - not the contents of e-mails and other communications, but the data revealing who is speaking to whom, when and where.
Connections inside France and between France and other countries are all monitored, Le Monde reports.
The revelations of the controversial U.S. domestic surveillance program PRISM have provoked massive indignation through much of Europe, but France has been rather quiet. There are two simple explanations: Paris was already aware — and does exactly the same.
Le Monde has confirmed that the “Direction Générale de la Securité Extérieure” (DGSE, the French secret service) systematically collects the electromagnetic signals transmitted by computers and phones in France, as well as the digital streams going back-and-forth between the French and abroad. All communications are being spied on: emails, SMS messages, phone records, Facebook and Twitter updates, which are all then stored for years.
If this massive database was used only by the DGSE, which works only outside France’s borders, the practice would already be illegal. But the six others intelligence French services are also making daily use of the data they need, very discreetly, without any legal authorization or any type of serious control. Certain politicians are very much aware of what is done, but secrecy is the rule.
This French Big Brother, of course, is meant to be kept clandestine. However, its existence is mentioned briefly in parliamentary documents. The eight senators and members of Parliament who handle intelligence oversight note in their April 30 report that “since 2008, progress has been made in matters of mutualization of capacities, especially concerning electromagnetic originated intelligence […]”.
The legislators even propose going further, to “reinforce the capacities exploited by the DGSE” and to “consolidate the access to other services to the mutualised capacities of the DGSE.”