French paper hints at Israeli role in 2012 cyberattack on Elysee Palace

Israel issues firm denial as Le Monde cites NSA document suggesting possible Mossad involvement in communications breach during Sarkozy presidency

French president Nicolas Sarkozy meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem in Sept 2011 (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO/FLASH90)
French president Nicolas Sarkozy meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem in Sept 2011 (photo credit: Avi Ohayon/GPO/FLASH90)

French intelligence suspected the US of hacking into the Elysee Palace’s communications system during the 2012 French presidential elections when Nicolas Sarkozy was still head of state, but American officials hinted that the Mossad was involved, the French newspaper Le Monde reported on Friday. Israel firmly denied the suggestion.

According to the report, which is based on a classified NSA document dated April 2013 leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden and obtained by the paper, French intelligence officials traveled to Washington to get clarification on the alleged cyberattack a year earlier.

The Americans denied US involvement and told the French visitors that “most” of their allies — Canada, Australia, Britain and New Zealand — were also not involved, Radio France Internationale reported. But Israel was not vouched for, which the Le Monde article interpreted as a hint that Israel was indeed involved.

The document notes that “TAO [the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations, which handles cyberattacks] intentionally did not ask either Mossad or (Israel’s cyber intelligence unit) ISNU whether they were involved as France is not an approved target for joint discussions.”

It remains unclear whether the presidential communications systems were compromised at any time.

“Israel is a country which is a friend, ally and partner of France and does not carry out any hostile activity which could pose a threat to its security,” the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Le Monde.

In another NSA document from 2008 obtained by the British newspaper The Guardian, Israel is described as “excellent partners in terms of sharing information ” but the Mossad is also noted by the Americans to be “the third most aggressive intelligence service in the world against the United States”.

The report came a day after The Guardian published an article based on a confidential memo suggesting the NSA was able to monitor 35 world leaders’ communications in 2006.

The memo said the NSA encouraged senior officials at the White House, Pentagon and other agencies to share their contacts so the spy agency could add foreign leaders’ phone numbers to its surveillance systems, the report said.

AP contributed to this report.

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