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Economic Espionage: NSA Spied on France’s Highest Financial Officials

In what is sure to cause further embarrassment for the Obama administration, WikiLeaks released documents on Monday that it says prove that the US National Security Agency (NSA) eavesdropped on France’s top financial officials and high-stakes French export bids for over a decade in what the group has labelled targeted economic espionage.

France and the US didn’t immediately respond to the release in French publications Mediapart and Liberation on Monday night. The material couldn’t be immediately verified, but WikiLeaks has a record of releasing US government documents.

Last week, the group revealed that the NSA spied on the last three French presidents, angering and embarrassing the French government, which summoned the US ambassador for explanation.

The new reports say NSA intercepts between 2004 and 2012 show the agency eavesdropped on two finance ministers and three other senior officials. Other documents show that from 2002-2012, the NSA eavesdropped on all French export bids worth more than $200 million, from oil and gas to telecommunications and biotechnology.

US officials have acknowledged that they collect economic information as part of standard intelligence gathering, but it has been the longstanding US position that the government doesn’t conduct economic espionage, which it defines as stealing economic information for the benefit of American companies. It says the French and most other countries do conduct such espionage.

The new reports say that the NSA shared some of the information with U.S. intelligence allies in the so-called Five Eyes program – the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

It says the spying targeted information about the French budget, trade policy and French companies’ role in the oil-for-food program in Iraq in the 1990s.

The finance ministers targeted were Francois Baroin, who served under then-President Nicolas Sarkozy, and Pierre Moscovici – who is now EU finance commissioner, playing a key role in talks on Greece’s future in the eurozone.

After last week’s revelations, President Barack Obama promised that the US was abiding by a commitment that he made in 2013 not to spy on the French president after Edward Snowden disclosed the extent of NSA surveillance powers.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called for an intelligence “code of conduct” between allies.

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