US spied on French nuclear program: documents

22nd March 2006, Comments 0 comments

WASHINGTON, March 21, 2006 (AFP) - The United States spied extensively on France's nuclear weapons program for decades, beginning just after World War II, documents made public Tuesday show.

WASHINGTON, March 21, 2006 (AFP) - The United States spied extensively on France's nuclear weapons program for decades, beginning just after World War II, documents made public Tuesday show.

The 32 declassified documents, ranging in date from February 1946 to June 1987, were produced by the CIA, State Department, US Pacific Command, Strategic Air Command, and Manhattan Project.

And while the spying itself is not unexpected, the papers, posted on the Internet by George Washington University's National Security Archive, show the extent of US interest in the French program, and methods used to monitor it.

"The biggest effort was in the late 50s through the mid 70s. Of course [France] stopped atmospheric testing in 1974, so there was less data to collect," NSA researcher Jeffrey Richelson told AFP.

Also, "it was not as much of a concern when you get to the late 70s and 80s and you're more concerned with the 'rogue states,'" he added.

During the height of its interest, however, Washington deployed satellites, debris-collecting U-2 aircraft, communications intercepts, US Navy ships as well as spies to gather information on the French program, both in France and the Pacific.

"It certainly indicates that it was of significant interest to the US during that period of time," Richelson said.

The first documents in the collection were produced by the Manhattan Engineer District's foreign intelligence section.

Citing "a reliable source," a top secret memo dated February 18, 1946 reports on "a rumor circulating to the effect that French scientists have the formula and techniques concerning atomic explosives and that they are now willing to sell this information."

"They allegedly do not wish to sell to the Allies or to their own government for political reasons," it says.

"It is known that, of the officials on the French Atomic Committee, all are communists or communist sympathizers, and that lower echelon personnel are carefully screened for political leanings to the far left," says a July 1946 "Review of the French Atomic Energy Development."

In the early 1950s, the State Department and Army pitched in with information on personnel involved in the French nuclear program, even though France had not yet decided to pursue development of a nuclear weapon.

Surveillance stepped up after France established an atomic agency and began searching for a test site, and again when it began conducting tests, in Algeria in 1960 and later in the Pacific.

Documents from the 1960s describe the French Pacific nuclear test sites in detail, as well as Operation Burning Light, the deployment of aircraft to measure electromagnetic pulses generated by nuclear tests, after communication intercepts revealed their timing.

Although the last document is dated 1987, "there was still surveillance activity in the 90s," Richelson said.

"Some of it was done by the New Zealanders. Their Government Communications Security Bureau intercepted a lot of French traffic from that Pacific test area" in cooperation with the United States, he said.

The documents can be viewed at www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

0 Comments To This Article