Former Intelligence Official Leaks Details Of NSA's Hack Of French Presidential Network

from the looselips.avi dept

The latest leak about the NSA's overseas spying transgressions took the unlikely form of a little-noticed YouTube video -- one that covered mostly-wonkish subject matter. The details of the NSA's malware attack on the French "White House" were revealed during an interview with Bernard Barbier, the former head of the French Intelligence Service, by a local engineering school. The video, of course, has since been removed, but not before French paper Le Monde picked up on the content of the interview.

Matt Suiche parses it all out -- an inadvertent confirmation of a Snowden document leaked in 2013 that contained an itinerary item about a discussion between French and US intelligence officials concerning a (at that time "alleged") "May 2012 cyber attack on the French Presidential network."

Sure, spies are known for spying on foreign governments. But allied countries were supposed to keep this sort of non-brotherly spying to a minimum. The former head of the French Intelligence Agency described the meeting this way:

“I received the order from the successor of Mr Sarkozy (Francois Hollande) to go in the U.S. to shout at them. We were sure it was them. At the end of the meeting, Keith Alexander (Director of the NSA) was not happy. When we were in the bus, he told me he was disappointed because he never thought we would detect them and he even added “You guys are good”. The major Allied Powers, we do not spy on them. The fact the U.S. broke this rule was a shock” 

Note that Keith Alexander wasn't sorry the NSA had breached international spy agency decorum, much less attacked the presidential network of a foreign ally. He was only sorry his agency had been caught -- and by a comparatively-unpowered agency at that.

Barbier notes elsewhere in his interview that the agency that sniffed out the NSA intrusion did it with 1/20th of the workforce and 1/40th of the budget. The NSA, in his view, is an argument against government bloat. More dollars do not equate to better spying. Indiscriminate targeting and even more indiscriminate collecting lead to a lot of analyst busywork.

Despite this disagreement over NSA hacking, it appears Keith Alexander found some common ground with the head of French Intelligence. One of the things the NSA does with the data it collects is kill. France is apparently using its collections the same way.

Another surreal part is when Keith Alexander told Bernard Barbier about the “Find & Fire” projects they have in Iraq to identify (within a 7km radius) & eliminate bad guys with drones. So apparently France is working on similar technologies as Barbier managed to convinced them to do the same…

So, there's that. Even if spy agencies can't agree on the propriety of snooping on world neighbors, at least they both believe metadata is an indispensable part of their respective extrajudicial killing programs.

And, given the nature of this leak, both agencies will probably be taking a closer look at the non-disclosure agreements foisted upon departing employees.

Filed Under: bernard barbier, france, nsa, surveillance


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 6 Sep 2016 @ 12:08pm

    Ha ha ha bet Bernard Barbier gets a phone call from the NSA saying they'd like him to come to America so they can talk with him.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Padpaw (profile), 6 Sep 2016 @ 12:59pm

    They should just have him extradited to france since they clearly have no problem ignoring a country's laws when they want something.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2016 @ 1:17pm

    The NSA, destroying America's credibility abroad and at home, one sovereign nation at a time.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Vic, 6 Sep 2016 @ 1:17pm

    RE: It means war!

    Oh, no! The good old France is going to declare a war on the US!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2016 @ 1:38pm

      Re: RE: It means war!

      Don't worry. I have it on good authority that they will surrender before the US can fire more than a warning shot.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2016 @ 1:23pm

    Video

    > The video, of course, has since been removed, but not before French paper Le Monde picked up on the content of the interview.

    And neither Le Monde nor Suiche saved a copy of the video they were planning to report on? Did anyone?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Digitari, 6 Sep 2016 @ 4:35pm

    Change the sign, Again!!

    "git out there and change that sign to read patriot fries, again"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Seegras (profile), 7 Sep 2016 @ 2:13am

      Re: Change the sign, Again!!

      Your so-called "French" fries are actually Belgian in origin. And hereabouts we call them by their French name, which happens to be "pommes frites" (fried potatoes; the pommes would be short for pommes-de-terre, actually).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2016 @ 5:28pm

    I wonder why they are shocked

    It's well known that some of the most intense spying occurs by the US on other US agencies. Why do they think those agencies wouldn't spy on allies?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Daydream, 6 Sep 2016 @ 6:03pm

    The truth about the NSA: Wizards!

    The truth is, the NSA is so oversized and bloated because it needs the manpower; they're one of the top agencies involved in hiding the wizarding world from muggles today.

    No, really! Why do you think they're after so much data?
    It's not spying for terrorists, it's a massive system to intercept and 'accidentally' vanish videos and posts about magical incidents before they can spread!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2016 @ 10:12pm

      Re: The truth about the NSA: Wizards!

      Currently listening to the books... and this makes too much sense in universe... especially in the cell phone facebook age

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2016 @ 8:36pm

    Robotic Assassins

    Coming soon.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    anla (profile), 6 Sep 2016 @ 10:48pm

    Not that small

    The article claims that France's intelligence services are "a comparatively-unpowered agency"

    That would depend on the meaning of the word "comparatively" If we're talking the number of people employed in the US intelligence sector vs. the French intelligence sector, then it is true.

    The French intelligence sector generally operates under less legal restrictions and less oversight restrictions than their US counterparts.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 7 Sep 2016 @ 8:05am

    NSA is a terrorist organization.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: I Invented Email
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.