By Julian Pecquet - 11/21/12 01:50 PM EST
The Obama administration on Wednesday categorically denied reports that the U.S. government might have hacked into the French presidential palace earlier this year.
“We categorically deny the allegations by unnamed sources that the U.S. government participated in a cyberattack against the French government,” Homeland Security spokesman Matthew Chandler told The Hill in a statement. “France is one of our strongest allies.
The French news magazine l'Express leveled the charges Tuesday in an exclusive investigative piece that has garnered considerable attention in France. The article says Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano did not deny the charges when asked point-blank about them, but an Obama administration official says she dismissed the question out of hand with laughter because it was “preposterous.”
According to l'Express, the computers of several close advisers to then-President Nicolas Sarkozy — including Chief of Staff Xavier Musca — were compromised in May by a computer virus that bears the hallmarks of Flame, which was allegedly created by a U.S.-Israeli team to target Iran's nuclear program. Anonymous French officials pointed the finger at the United States.
“You can be on very good terms with a 'friendly' country and still want to guarantee their unwavering support — especially during a transition period,” an official told the magazine. The alleged spying attack took place a few days before the second round of the French presidential elections, which Sarkozy lost to Francois Hollande, a Socialist.