The US National Security Agency (NSA) spied on the last three presidents of France from 2006 until 2012, according to newly released documents from the WikiLeaks whistleblower website.
The NSA wiretapped former French presidents Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy as well the current leader Francois Hollande, WikiLeaks said in a press statement published on Tuesday, citing top secret intelligence reports and technical documents.
WikiLeaks said NSA surveillance targeted the communications of Hollande (2012–present), Sarkozy (2007–2012) and Chirac (1995–2007), as well as French cabinet ministers and the French ambassador to the US.
Hollande reacted to the news by calling an urgent defense council meeting to be held on Wednesday.
The revelations were first reported in the French news organizations of Liberation and Mediapart, which said the NSA spied on the presidents from at least 2006, when George W. Bush served as US president.
"The French people have a right to know that their elected government is subject to hostile surveillance from a supposed ally," WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said in the statement, adding that more "important revelations" would soon follow.
Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden disclosed the extent of the agency’s spying activities in June 2013.
He leaked classified intelligence documents showing massive collections of phone records of Americans and foreign nationals as well as political leaders around the world.
These latest disclosures regarding spying on allied European countries come after it was revealed that the NSA had spied on Germany and the German intelligence agency had cooperated with the NSA to spy on officials and companies elsewhere in Europe.
"While the German disclosures focused on the isolated fact that senior officials were targeted by US intelligence, WikiLeaks' publication today provides much greater insight into US spying on its allies," Assange said.
WikiLeaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson refused to comment on how WikiLeaks had obtained the documents and declined to go into specifics about what else might be appearing in the French media, but said that “they can expect more revelations in the near future.”
French officials say they have long known that the US had the technical means to try to intercept their conversations.
"We are not naive, the conversations that took place between the defense ministry and the president did not happen on the telephone," said Michele Alliot-Marie, former defense and foreign affairs minister under Chirac and Sarkozy, told France's iTele TV channel. "That being said, it does raise the problem of the relationship of trust between allies."
Last week, WikiLeaks published more than 60,000 diplomatic cables from Saudi Arabia and said on its website it would release half a million more in the coming weeks.