The French government has demanded explanation from the US government following a report that the US National Security Agency recorded up to 70.3 million French phone calls, at a rate of 3 million data intercepts per day, between Dec.10, 2012, and Jan. 8, 2013.
The report by the French newspaper Le Monde, co-written by the Brazil-based US journalist Glenn Greenwald, was based on classified NSA files, dated April 2013, leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
According to the newspaper, the NSA eavesdropped on "telephone communications of French citizens" on a "massive scale."
The Associated Press reports that on Monday, the French government summoned the US ambassador to France, Charles Rivkin, to the French Foreign Ministry, the Quai d'Orsay, in Paris, to meet with French officials and offer an explanation of the report.
The French government called on the US government to give an explanation of what it described as "unacceptable" and "shocking" behavior.
On Monday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters in Luxembourg, where he was attending a meeting of EU Foreign Ministers, "These kinds of practices between partners, that violate privacy, are totally unacceptable ... We must quickly assure that these practices aren't repeated."
Speaking on national TV, the French Interior Minister Manuel Valls, said, "The revelations on Le Monde are shocking and demand adequate explanations from the American authorities in the coming hours."
Ambassador Rivkin told Reuters after the meeting that he hoped the incident would not cause a permanent rift between France and the US because relations between both countries were the “best they have been for a generation.”
The documents obtained by Le Monde revealed that NSA did not confine its spying to French citizens suspected of terror connections. It also conducted targeted surveillance, monitoring French politicians and high-profile individuals in the French business community.
However, Le Monde did not mention any particular personalities NSA targeted.
NSA's French surveillance was conducted using a program called "US-85D," which is able to eavesdrop on telephone calls and selected specific text messages based on key words.
The program automatically recorded phone calls conducted on selected numbers.
Le Monde reported that "When a telephone number is used in France, it activates a signal which automatically triggers the recording of the call. Apparently this surveillance system also picks up SMS (text) messages and their content using key words. Finally, the NSA apparently stores the history of the connections of each target — or the meta-data."
The report comes as the US Secretary of State John Kerry was visiting Paris for a meeting related to the Israel-Palestine peace process.
He is expected to meet with the French Foreign Minister.
The US government has not responded officially to the allegations.
France is not the only EU country the US has targeted. Recently, Germany protested disclosures of NSA phone surveillance and collection of electronic data in the country.
EU ministers are scheduled to meet Monday to discuss measures to curb further US spying in Europe.
Disclosures of NSA spying in Latin America have also caused widespread outrage.
Brazilian TV Globo disclosures of NSA spying in Mexico and Brazil have sparked a diplomatic row between the US and Brazil.
Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff denounced US espionage in a speech at the US in September.
US-Mexico relations are also presently tense after disclosures in a report by the German magazine Der Spiegel, that the NSA spied on two Mexican presidents: Former-President Felipe Calderon and current President Enrique Pena Nieto.