On the same day Le Monde revealed the French intelligence service has a domestic spying program that sounds a whole lot like the National Security Agency's operation, France's interior Ministry confirmed it received and then denied an asylum request from leaker Edward Snowden.
Edward Snowden has been desperately trying to find a country that would, perhaps, agree to house him after he leaked confidential NSA documents. Snowden is still in a waiting area at a Russian airport since fleeing Hong Kong. (Supposedly.)
The French interior ministry revealed for the first time today that they are one of the 21 countries to receive an asylum request from the stranded international fugitive. The French interior ministry also revealed they shut him down. "Like many countries, France received a request for asylum from Mr. Edward Snowden through its embassy in Moscow. Given the legal analysis and the situation of the interested party, France will not agree," the interior ministry statement statement read. The decision shouldn't come as a big surprise, though. Interior Minister Manuel Valls (above) has said previously he would not grant Snowden asylum. His options are quickly dwindling.
But, man, the timing of the announcement could not be funnier. On Thursday morning, French newspaper Le Monde reported the General Directorate of External Security (the DGSE, for short) has a metadata collection operation that is nearly identical to its American counterpart. The DGSE collects the metadata on all "email messages, SMS messages, itemized phone bills and connections to FaceBook and Twitter," from communications flowing in and out of France, and stores it on three floors of the DGSE headquarters' basement in Paris. Like PRISM, French intelligence officers can't access the contents of messages, only the metadata that reveals the who, what and where.
Unlike PRISM, the program doesn't have a fancy name and it's barely mentioned in government documents. "This takes place discreetly, on the margins of legality and and beyond any serious control," Le Monde writes. "This metadata may be used to draw huge graphs of links among people based on their digital activity, and it's been going on for years." The DGSE also lets six other French intelligence services use the database to access any stored information:
- the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DRM)
- the Directorate of Protection and Security of Defense (DPSD)
- the Central Directorate of Internal Security (DCRI)
- the Directorate of National Intelligence and Customs Investigations (DNRED)
- Tracfin, the anti-money-laundering unit
- and the Paris capital police's small intelligence operation
Oh, for the record, this comes less than a week after the French government yelled at the U.S. for spying on European Union offices.
Meanwhile, the French government also took a moment out of its busy Thursday to apologize to Bolivia for not allowing President Evo Morales' jet to land in France. They blamed the mix-up on "conflicting information." You can't help but feel bad for the poor flacks in the interior minster's office today. Yeesh.
Update, 5:12 p.m.: Add Italy to the list of countries rejecting Snowden. This is like a bad senior prom at this point.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.