11/21/2012 03:32 am ET Updated Jan 20, 2013

U.S. Government Hacked Nicolas Sarkozy, Former France President's, Office In 2012, l'Express Claims

The United States government reportedly hacked into the office of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy shortly before he was voted out of office earlier this year, according to French newsmagazine l'Express.

France's cyberwar agency reportedly made the discovery after a major security breach in May , which, l'Express says, was caused by a "very powerful worm" developed jointly by the American and Israeli governments, called "Flame."

Translated from l'Express:

Very sophisticated, [Flame] can collect the files on a machine, take screen shots and even activate the microphone on a computer to record the conversations," explains Vitaly Kamluk, expert on this topic. The design demands a lot of money and human resources that only a big country can mobilize. Or even two: According to the anglo-saxon press, the worm would have been created by an American-Israeli team, and initially targeted countries in the Middle East (Iran, Egypt).

The U.S. most famously coordinated cyberwarfare with Israel when the two governments unleashed a malicious computer virus dubbed "Stuxnet" on Iran's nuclear program. Stuxnet was discovered in 2010, and the U.S./Israel partnership on the malware uncovered in June, 2011.

France, unlike Iran, is a close ally of the United States. However, the U.S. government might still have had motivations for carrying out an act of cyber-espionage, according to sources who spoke with l'Express:

"You can be on good very good terms with a "friendly nation" and at the same time want to reassure yourself of its unshakable support, especially in a period of political transition," says an anonymous source close to the case. Besides, the Elysee plays a key role in the signing of big contacts with foreign countries, especially in the Middle East. "That was even more true at the time of Nicolas Sarkozy," recalls Nicolas Arpagian, scientific director of digital security at the National Institute of Higher Studies of Security And Justice.

When approached by l'Express for comment, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano stated, "We have no greater partner than France, we have no greater ally than France. We cooperate in many security-related areas. I am here to further reinforce those ties and create new ones." The White House has not yet responded to an inquiry from The Hill.



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