National security breach? French prosecutors probe Hollande’s alleged mishandling of classified docs

French President Francois Hollande. © Gonzalo Fuentes
A scandal surrounding a book called ‘A President Shouldn’t Say That’ is seeing a new twist. French prosecutors are investigating a potential national security breach, after Francois Hollande allegedly left secret files right in front of reporters.

French prosecutors launched an investigation into whether documents lying in front of reporters on President Hollande’s desk posed a threat to national security, the Paris prosecutor’s office said on Monday.

The probe is related to an article, published by Le Monde newspaper on August 24, in which two reporters describe a meeting with Hollande in August 2013.

The reporters described piles of documents, including ones bearing a “classified” stamp, lying on the presidential desk right before their eyes. It was a tense period, when the French president waited for the US to allow strikes on Syria, and the reporters saw the notes, prepared for Hollande by his military advisers for future telephone talks with US President Barack Obama.

"Hollande consults one [document] in particular. We acquired a copy. Written the day before, on August 29, by his chief of staff. It details the timeline of the [French] raid. It's the vade-mecum of the French intervention," Reuters quoted the article.

It remained unclear, however, how the reporters managed to acquire a copy of the classified documents. Several extracts from the document in question were published in the article, describing an operation prepared by the French military, awaiting the US president’s approval. French aircraft were allegedly ready to take off from the base in Abu Dhabi and launch five Scalp missiles on Syrian Arab Army bases. The strike however was never carried out.

A member of French Parliament, Eric Ciotti, said that the article had all the “all the elements of a top-level scandal.” The MP said he had reached the defense ministry twice for comment on the matter, but didn’t receive any response. After that, he filed a complaint to Paris prosecutor’s office, who launched the investigation.

The investigation is currently in preliminary stages, since prosecutors are reportedly trying to get details from the French defense ministry.

The Le Monde article was published later in a book by the reporters, titled ‘A President Shouldn’t Say That,’ which caused an apparent never-ending chain of scandals. The French President’s controversial remarks about Islam, Muslim women, the French poor, and others, which contradicted his public rhetoric, lowered the president’s popularity even further.

Some French MPs even vowed to impeach the president, not for controversial remarks, but for disclosure of “confidential information.”

“Some of his phrases can harm the president, perhaps prevent him from declaring his candidacy [for the next presidential elections]," one of the book’s authors, Le Monde investigative journalist, Fabrice Lhomme, told RT.

The new scandal came at a very unfortunate time for Francois Hollande, just days before he is expected to make an announcement about whether he would run for the next presidential term.