In developments that could embarrass the French government, Le Monde daily on Wednesday suggested that the 70.3 million phone and e-mail messages collected by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) between December 2012 and January 2013 could have come from France’s own external security service, the DGSE.

The daily based its hypothesis on allegations made by NSA chief General Keith Alexander before a commission of the U.S. Congress and reports attributed to anonymous sources appearing in The Washington Post newspaper.

The Post article said the details of the messages were handed over by French security officials under a Franco-U.S security agreement.

Was the French government feigning indignation over charges of the NSA spying?

Le Monde suggests that might be the case. On Monday, General Alexander swore before a Congress committee that information published by media organs such as El Mundo in Spain, L’espresso in Italy and Le Monde alleging large-scale spying by the NSA were completely false. He said the countries concerned had provided the intercepts. A German paper claimed that the French had handed over the information under a Franco-U.S. agreement, “Lustre”.

Le Monde said highly placed sources in the intelligence establishment had confirmed the existence of such agreement. The paper says France enjoys a strategic position with access to underwater cables carrying information from Afghanistan and Africa. The DGSE intercepts and stocks these messages. Le Monde alleges there is a regular exchange of information between the DGSE and the NSA and other “friendly countries” such as Sweden and Italy, located at strategic crossing points of transmission cables.

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