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Intelligence chief: Le Monde's allegations against NSA 'false'

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper calls the French newspaper's allegations "inaccurate and misleading."

Declan McCullagh/CNET

The Director of National Intelligence has rebutted claims from a French newspaper that the NSA gathered more than 70 million recordings of phone calls from French citizens.

In a statement published on Wednesday, James Clapper, who oversees 17 different agencies, including the NSA, lashed out at Le Monde over a story published on Monday. Based on documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, Le Monde reported that the NSA made 70.3 million recordings of phone calls in France from December 2012 to January 2013.

The paper said that the documents led it to believe that the NSA targeted not just people associated with terrorism but those who worked in business or politics. The story prompted complaints from several French officials. French President Francois Hollande reportedly chastized US President Barack Obama about the revelations in a phone call late Monday.

The White House did acknowledge that the reports do raise legitimate questions, especially in how the United States treats its friends and allies. But Clapper doesn't quite see it the same way, at least based on his statement:

Recent articles published in the French newspaper Le Monde contain inaccurate and misleading information regarding U.S. foreign intelligence activities. The allegation that the National Security Agency collected more than 70 million "recordings of French citizens' telephone data" is false.

While we are not going to discuss the details of our activities, we have repeatedly made it clear that the United States gathers intelligence of the type gathered by all nations. The U.S. collects intelligence to protect the nation, its interests, and its allies from, among other things, threats such as terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The United States values our longstanding friendship and alliance with France and we will continue to cooperate on security and intelligence matters going forward.

James R. Clapper
Director of National Intelligence

In the face of more revelations about the NSA's snooping activities, Clapper has continually defended the agency, arguing that the data gathering is necessary to protect the nation from terrorists.