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France's DGSE in Full Disarray

Intelligence Online, N 439, 24 October 2002

 

The French foreign intelligence agency DGSE is still reeling from an upheaval in June that prompted the dismissal of its boss.

Little by little, news has leaked out about political back-stabbing in the agency in the midst of the post-Sept. 11 crisis. And that maneuvering is unlikely to cease with the appointment of a new intelligence director.

A report on the effectiveness of France's intelligence community tabled on Oct. 16 by the center-right legislator Bernard Carayon, member of the Parliament's finance committee, presented a reasonably accurate picture of the situation at DGSE. But while the report's recommendations were timely and appropriate (particularly with regard coordinating intelligence) they hardly matched the reality. And if a new man comes along to replace Jean-Pierre Pochon as boss of the Intelligence Directorate - and that is by no means certain - matters look unlikely to improve. France's small intelligence community has been talking of little else than Pochon's replacement for the past two months, but in fact he has returned to his office at DGSE headquarters on Boulevard Mortier in Paris.

To measure the political maneuvering and its effects one must look back to the appointment of Jean-Claude Cousseran as DGSE chief in April, 2000. In taking over, Cousseran proceeded to push through a series of reforms drafted by Bruno Joubert, the agency's director of strategy at the time.

The first to be affected was the Intelligence Directorate, which was split into two divisions: the Political Intelligence Service and the Security Intelligence Service. Cousseran, who was close to the Socialist Party, called on Pochon, a member of the Gaullist RPR party, to take over as boss of the Intelligence Directorate that encompassed the two divisions. This was the result of a compromise between France's left and right which were sharing power in 2000.

But to keep his options open and steer around Pochon, Cousseron decided to place one of his friends in a top job alongside Pochon. Alain Chouet, a specialist in terrorism, particularly concerning Algerian and Iranian networks, took over as chief of the Security Intelligence Service. He had been on post in Damascus at a time when Cousseran was France's ambassador to Syria.

And to further exercise control over Pochon, Cousseron appointed a military man known outside the agency only as Colonel Martinez as his deputy. This was despite the fact Martinez had been fired by the previous director, Jacques Dewatre, following the misappropriation of funds at the External Relations Service (the "totems") that he directed. Soon, Chouet was writing reports for Cousseran that by-passed his immediate superior, Pochon.

Elsewhere, Chouet had authority over the DGSE's new Anti-Crime Service headed by an examining magistrate, Gilbert Flam, which had taken over the functions of the former Special Affairs Department. This dealt essentially with banking and fiscal links between foreign organizations or individuals with French nationals (the service's officials worked chiefly out of offices of the French finance ministry).

Some of the information picked up by the Anti-Crime unit concerned visits by French president Jacques Chirac to Japan and involved money being paid out in that country for the education of a young boy, who was described as the illegitimate child of the French leader. True or not, the information was contained in a report that Chouet passed on to Cousseran, leaving Pochon in the dark.

At that point, politics too precedence over DGSE's intelligence function. Instead of informing the president's staff of the report's contents, which could have presented a political danger to Chirac, Cousseran informed only Socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin just as he was making it clear he would run against Chirac in the 2002 presidential election.

Pochon learned of the maneuvers only in March of this year and informed Chirac's circle of the episode. He had a furious argument with his boss and was informally told he wasn't wanted around DGSE any more; in fact, he remained director of intelligence but no longer turned up for work. He stayed away until the arrival of a new DGSE boss, Pierre Brochant, in August.




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