France and the USA: A Love-Hack Relationship

Feb 12, 2013
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she-loves-me-she-loves-me-notThe relationship between France and the USA has always been tense: the phrase “Freedom Fries” sums it up pretty well. This is a product of France’s complicated history with the US, having first funded a revolution in our favor and then funding our enemies in war, then having been ‘invaded’ by us after they were invaded by Germany in WWII, and then Vietnam, and then Iraq, and a few other little things in between. In short, their status on Facebook should be It’s Complicated.

Just before the French presidential election last year, a story leaked that the Elysee, the French White House, had been hacked. By Americans. Just days before the election, and while the US denied everything, there was a clear trace leading back to the US government. Many hypothesized what the US government wanted to see – whether sensitive information that Sarkozy was privy to had been destroyed, to see what Sarkozy knew in general, etc. – however, when Hollande won (as was predicted in the week up to the election), the story died and the waters calmed. That is until now.

The US has accused France of retaliating with a hack of their own, Numerama reported this week. While there was no particular political change that would trigger such an action, the retaliation may have simply been a story of “you hack me, I’ll hack you back.”

The counter-intelligence relationship between the US and France has been getting more tense in recent months, including an article in the Washington Post from this week in which they quote the National Intelligence Estimate, a US government body monitoring & documenting national security issues, as saying that, behind the US, only three countries have equal levels of hacking skillz: China, Russia, and France. Being compared to China & Russia, two notoriously black hat countries may have been the US’s subtle way of suggesting that France had been poking around in the US Government’s computers, as Numerama reporter Julien suggested in his article.

These acts are not likely influencing too much of the French-US decisions, as it seems more of a precautionary measure than an offensive one. US President Barack Obama had a close relationship with former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was seen as a French president trying to Americanize France, and Obama might have wanted to make sure that what Sarkozy knew wasn’t being passed on to Hollande. In the end, he probably didn’t have much to worry about – Sarkozy would do anything to make Hollande’s job a little harder!