French Legal Complaint Targets NSA, FBI, Tech Firms Over Prism

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Two French human rights groups filed a legal complaint on Thursday that targets the U.S. National Security Agency, the FBI and seven technology companies they say may have helped the United States to snoop on French citizens' emails and phone calls.

edward snowden

* French prosecutor to decide whether to investigate

* Complaint denounces spy methods revealed by Snowden

Two French human rights groups filed a legal complaint on Thursday that targets the U.S. National Security Agency, the FBI and seven technology companies they say may have helped the United States to snoop on French citizens' emails and phone calls.

The complaint, which denounces U.S. spying methods revealed by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, is filed against "persons unknown" but names Microsoft, Yahoo , Google, Paltalk, Facebook, AOL and Apple as "potential accomplices" of the NSA and FBI.

Media reports that the United States has eavesdropped on European Internet users and embassies under a surveillance programme named Prism have soured EU-U.S. relations, just as talks are starting on a transatlantic free trade pact.

"This blatant intrusion into individuals' lives represents a serious threat to individual liberties and, if not stopped, may lead to the end of the rule of law," the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the French Human Rights League (LDH) said in a statement.

The complaint was filed with a Paris civil court, and a prosecutor will now decide whether to open an investigation. If the prosecutor declines to do so, the plaintiffs can still ask an investigating magistrate to look into the case.

The complaint cites "fraudulent access to an automated data processing system, collection of personal data by fraudulent means, wilful violation of the intimacy of private life and the use and conservation of recordings and documents obtained through such means".

While the complaint alleges that the NSA and FBI bear the bulk of responsibility in setting up Prism, it suggests the U.S. companies may have provided them with the technical means to access their servers and collect personal data and content.

The rights groups said French laws had been violated and called for a judicial investigation into the reports on U.S. surveillance that appeared in Britain's Guardian newspaper, the Washington Post and German news magazine Der Spiegel.

There was no immediate response from the NSA, the FBI or the Justice Department.

Representatives for both Facebook and Google said the companies did not give government agencies any direct access to their servers and provided user information only in accordance with the law. Reuters was seeking comment from the other firms.

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