Intelligence: November 28, 2000

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FRENCH INTELLIGENCE ENTERS THE MODERN ERA; The French General Directorate for External Security (DGSE, the French version of the CIA) has been adapting to the post-Cold War world. The agency was always extremely secretive and controlled by the military, but the new director (diplomat Jean-Claude Cousseran) has opened the agency up to some extent and has replaced the heads of the five departments (administration, operations, strategy, technology, and analysis). Cousseran, once the ambassador to Turkey, worked for the DGSE during 1989-92 as head of the strategy department. The intelligence section is now run by Pierre Pochon, who previously headed the RGPP (national police intelligence) and spend 10 years working for DST (French internal counter-intelligence and security). The operations department, which once blew up the Rainbow Warrior, is now headed by Colonel Bertrand Fleury, who in his last post was the head of the 13th Parachute Dragoon Regiment, a key French special forces unit. Since the DGSE's operations department has been reduced to only 300 operatives, Fleury may call upon his old regiment when he needs heavy lifting done. Cousseran's greatest innovation has been to create a nine-member personal staff who interface between himself and the department heads, who have a higher rank than the staff. Three of the nine are women in an agency that never wanted women in its ranks or made them feel welcome. This staff is intended to improve communication between Cousseran and all levels of the DGSE. The previous head of the agency (Dewartre) was so secretive that he meet with his department heads only a few times a month and never met with lower-ranking officials. Cousseran's highest goal has been to get information to those who need it faster. The watch-word inside the DGSE is that entirely too much information is hot news at 6am and worthless by sunset of the same day. His plan to solve this problem is to streamline the Interministerial Committee of Intelligence, which determines what newly-generated information needs to be distributed and to whom. The DGSE used to have the French military as its primary customer, but now deals mostly with criminal and economic matters, leaving the military to develop its own intelligence through the DRM (military intelligence directorate) that was created in 1992. About half of the DGSE is based overseas, many of them in embassies but large numbers are given cover jobs by French corporations, who hope that by hosting DGSE operatives they will receive intelligence support in seeking foreign customers and contracts. The technical branch runs 15 signals interception stations, 10 of them in France and the others in the French West Indies, Central African Republic, Djibouti in East Africa, and the islands of Mayotte and La Reunion in the Indian Ocean. The technical branch also runs the intelligence ship Bougainville. This new ship, bristling with antennae, was hurriedly commissioned last Spring in order to be on station near Lebanon when Israeli troops pulled out of that country last May. The greatest change, however, may be in cooperation with other agencies. Previously, the DGSE would only rarely even speak with the DST counter-intelligence agency, but they now cooperate constantly against terrorists and criminal organizations. The DGSE and French Foreign Ministry were notorious for ignoring each other, but now work hand-in-hand on many projects.--Stephen V Cole


 


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