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Macron Campaign Says It Was The Victim Of A 'Massive' Hacking Attack


The presidential campaign of Emmanuel Macron has been hacked just hours before voting begins in the French presidential election on Sunday. WikiLeaks has posted nine gigabytes of Macron campaign data online, and it's said to contain real and fake documents. The independent-centrist Macron is running against the candidate of the far right, Marine Le Pen. We're going to go now to NPR's Eleanor Beardsley in Paris. Eleanor, thanks for being with us.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: This hack occurred around midnight Paris time, but not a lot is being said about it.

BEARDSLEY: That's right. Nothing really because you know what? France has an official blackout period a day before the election. It started last night at midnight. It goes through the closing of the polls Sunday night at 8. So media and the candidates are not allowed to talk about the campaign. This is supposed to give people a time to reflect, Scott, and that information was leaked one minute before midnight. I contacted Macron's campaign, and they texted me back and said, no, they couldn't say a thing.

But I was able to speak with Nicolas Tenzer. He's a specialist in cyberattacks and disinformation. He said the hacked material is a mix of real and fake documents, like you said. And he said it was clearly meant to destabilize Macron's campaign and give a boost to his opponent, far-right leader Marine Le Pen. Here's what Tenzer told me.

NICOLAS TENZER: It seems that all this hacking was directed on Macron by Russia's propaganda teams. And we all know that the WikiLeaks actually is working for Russia.

SIMON: And, Eleanor, this isn't the first time that Macron's campaign has been hacked, is it?

BEARDSLEY: No, it isn't. The campaign says it was hacked massively a couple months ago, and Russia is suspected to be behind that. Russia denies it, but President Francois Hollande actually went on national TV and warned Russia not to meddle in the French presidential election.

SIMON: And any surmise as to why Macron would be their target?

BEARDSLEY: Oh, of course. Macron wants to strengthen the EU. He's very pro-NATO. You know, he said he would not go easy on Russian President Vladimir Putin. He might even increase sanctions put on Russia for the war in eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea.

His far-right opponent, Marine Le Pen, sees eye to eye with Putin. She went to Moscow a couple weeks ago, Scott. They had their picture taken together. She tweeted it. She calls the sanctions on Russia silly and says she'd lift them. And you know, Putin and Le Pen, they share the same worldview - this sort of return of the strong, patriotic nation and an end to this international cooperation, these organizations.

SIMON: So news industry can't talk about it, but is word getting out in France?

BEARDSLEY: Well, I was out on the streets of Paris today talking to people, as was my colleague, Frank Langfitt. No one I talked to even knew about it. But Frank spoke with a supporter, Melanie Biessy, and here's what she told him.

MELANIE BIESSY: It's just fake news. On Internet, on the web, people were analyzing the documents, and it was striking. It was obvious it was fake.

BEARDSLEY: And, you know, I ran into one Macron supporter, and though, she didn't know about the leaks, she was outraged, she said. And she'd go and vote even harder tomorrow. And, you know, I talked to one man who was supporting Le Pen, and he said he wouldn't be surprised if the leaks gave some proof of something shady in Macron's past. Anyway, Scott, the polls open at 8 o'clock tomorrow morning.

SIMON: NPR's Eleanor Beardsley in Paris, thanks so much.

BEARDSLEY: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.