French intelligence services

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The task of the French intelligence services is to ensure national security. They report to the Minister of the Interior , the Minister of Defense and the Prime Minister . The tasks were initially determined by the role as a former colonial and nuclear power . After 1989, however, an increasing merging of internal and external tasks can be observed.

Overview and structure

As the work of the French intelligence services was interrupted by the Second World War, the Deuxième Bureau lost its importance during this time. In 1940, under the patronage of Charles de Gaulle , the Bureau Central de Renseignements et d'Action (BCRA) was created to coordinate the actions of the Resistance . By merging these two services, the Service de Documentation Extérieur et de Contre-Espionage (SDECE) was created in 1945 . It reports to the Prime Minister but is reorganized after the assassination of Ben Barka in 1965 and reports to the Ministry of Defense. After François Mitterrand became head of state in 1981, another restructuring followed and on April 2, 1982 the name was changed to Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE).
The Surveillance du Territoire (ST), which is responsible for internal security, became the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST) in 1944 . On July 1, 2008, it will be merged with the Direction centrale des renseignements généraux (DCRG) to form the Direction centrale du renseignement intérieur (DCRI).
On June 16, 1992, the Direction du Renseignement Militaire (DRM) was founded.

The Secrétariat Général de la Défense Nationale (SGDN) is responsible for coordinating the various services . It is a member of the Conseil de Securité Intérieure and works together with the Secrétariat Général du Gouvernement (SGG) and the Secrétariat Général pour les questions de coopération économique européenne (SGCI).

Interior Ministry services

Structure of the Ministry of the Interior until 2008
  • Police nationale (until 1966: Sûreté nationale ): the organizational umbrella for security and information authorities
  • Renseignements Généraux (RG) full name: Direction centrale des Renseignements généraux (DCRG) (Central Intelligence Service). Their task was the "research and centralization of information with the aim of informing the government"
  • Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST): domestic police intelligence service; also representations in the French overseas territories; Tasks were: security, investigation and (espionage) defense tasks, as well as the fight against extremism and terrorism; also: Combating organized crime and preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction ( proliferation ).
  • Direction centrale du renseignement intérieur (DCRI) Its tasks include counter-espionage, counter-terrorism, combating cybercrime and monitoring potentially dangerous groups, organizations and social phenomena.

Ministry of Defense services

Structure of the military intelligence services reporting to the Ministry of Defense
  • Direction de la Protection et de la Securité de la Defense (DPSD - before 1992: Securité Militaire): military shielding service; responsible for the reliability of the military, counter-espionage and political surveillance of military personnel
  • Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE): military foreign intelligence service; divided into five departments:
  1. Strategy: analyzes information, evaluates it, handles inquiries from all authorized bodies; v. a. Contact with foreign ministry;
  2. News gathering: sets v. a. human sources one; In addition to the military and political sectors, the civilian sector is becoming increasingly important. a. in the field of economic and industrial espionage;
  3. (Special) operations: plans secret actions and carries them out with their own military special forces; "Action Division";
  4. Administration: responsible for the infrastructure: u. a. Personnel policy, accounting;
  5. Technical service: responsible for electronic reconnaissance; Listening stations
In 2011, 4,747 full-time employees were employed. The budget for 2012 was 592.8 million euros
  • Brigade de renseignement (BR BRENS) Until 1998 Brigade de renseignement et de guerre electronique (BRGE): military reconnaissance service; responsible for electronic warfare (including radar, satellite reconnaissance, image analysis, national and international telephone traffic, jammers, telecommunications reconnaissance , security of military communications and systems)
  • Direction du Renseignement Militaire (DRM): military (strategic-operational) intelligence service; Main tasks: telecommunications intelligence, cryptography , satellite intelligence
In February 2013 the DRM employed 1620 people. The budget was 155 million euros.
  • SHD - Service historique de la Défense (Historical Service of the French Ministry of Defense), formed in 2005 by a merger of the Services historiques des armées et de la Gendarmerie, the Center des archives de l'armement and Châtellerault. There are offices in Vincennes, Cherbourg, Brest, Lorient, Rochefort, Toulon, Caen and magazines in Blanc and Fontainebleau. This includes around 500 meters of archive files from the Resistance Secret Service and its successor organizations, as well as from the Parisian offices of the German occupying forces ( Gestapo and Abwehr , the Wehrmacht's intelligence service ). Around 200 running meters had been developed by 2015. The documents of the French military foreign intelligence service, at that time still called " Deuxième Bureau ", were later added to the archives. Its successor organization DGSE (French foreign intelligence service) kept the papers under lock and key.

Services of the Prime Minister

  • Secrétariat Général de la Défense Nationale (SGDN) The tasks are: synthesis of intelligence gathering and analysis, its protection, as well as inter-ministerial coordination. It is in constant contact with both the President and the Prime Minister.
aktuell (2004): Around 300 employees are employed.
  • Service de Documentation Extérieur et de Contre-Espionage (SDECE) Subordinated to the Defense Minister from 1965. The tasks were: espionage abroad and analysis of information as well as counter-espionage outside the national borders.

Fields of activity

Internal security

One of the most important challenges for the internal security of France after the Second World War was the right-wing terror organization OAS, which was founded in the winter of 1960/61. This perpetrated attacks against Algerians and the French state. In 1962 an attempt was made to assassinate President de Gaulle. After the capture, conviction and execution of some members, including Jean-Marie Bastien-Thiry on March 11, 1963, the OAS was de facto at an end. The riots of May 1968 came as a surprise to the RG, however, as left groups at universities received little attention. As a result, after these events, the focus was on the (extreme) left. Among other things, the Brigade Opérationnelle Centrale (BOC) was created - with the aim of "destroying" left movements in France. The use of illegal intelligence-gathering methods was justified on the grounds that they were terrorists or spies for other intelligence services.

In recent years, however, the rights have also moved more into the focus of the intelligence services. The reason for this is their increasing activities, such as the desecration of Jewish cemeteries or raids on asylum seekers' homes. France is a country with a high level of immigration - especially from North Africa. For example, by the end of the Algerian War in 1962, over 400,000 Algerians were living in France. Especially after the attacks of September 11, 2001, these immigrants are increasingly coming into the crosshairs of the intelligence services. Attacks - such as in Madrid - are feared. It was not until early June 2004 that 13 suspects were arrested during raids in the greater Paris area “on suspicion of membership in the Islamic Group of Moroccan Fighters (GICM)”.

Other groups that could pose a threat are Basque (e.g. ETA ) and Corsican (e.g. Frontu di Liberazione Naziunalista Corsu ) nationalists: “ Ongoing terrorist incidents with Corsican and Basque nationalists and the fear of the political and religious Conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa could spread into the Islamic population of France, prompted the government to form an inter-ministerial committee to coordinate the anti-terror campaign in 1993. "

France as a former colonial power

This fact means that the French services focus not only on the neighboring states of France, but mainly on the territories of the former colonies . In this area, both industrial espionage and the possibility of more global networking (see “ Frenchelon ”) come into play.

At the end of the 1950s, the SDECE formed an Africa section with over 150 employees under Colonel Maurice Robert . The involvement of French police officers in the kidnapping and murder of the Moroccan opposition politician Ben Barka caused a major political scandal in 1965 , whereupon the SDECE was reorganized. Instead of the Prime Minister as before, the SDECE was now subordinate to the Defense Minister. Interventions by the French services - especially the SDECE - on the African continent at this time included attempts at destabilization (e.g. bribery, circulating counterfeit money, initiating uprisings) after Guinea declared that it would reject close cooperation with France; in the DR Congo, supporting the secession of the resource-rich Katanga region under Moïse Tshombé ; support for the Biafra uprising in Nigeria in 1967. A significant intervention by the services was that in Rwanda in 1994 ( Opération Turquoise ) and then in the DR Congo in 1996/97, although no information is given about the circumstances. Even less is known about recent actions - especially those of the DGSE -, for example in Côte d'Ivoire 2001. Research into the activities of French services is made even more difficult by the fact that they are not infrequently involved - also personally - with cover those of some mercenaries. (However, on April 3, 2003, the French parliament banned the exercise and organization of mercenary activities by law.) The scheme is: First military aid, then mercenaries, then regular troops. In 2001 there were an estimated 4,000 French soldiers in Africa and the Persian Gulf.

The scandal surrounding the French oil company " Elf Aquitaine ", whose members are accused of corruption at the highest level , has been making headlines since 2001 . The state company was founded in 1963 by de Gaulle and the first director was Pierre Guillaumat , a man from the intelligence services. Loïk Le Floch-Prigent , ex-boss of the company, said: "[...] it is part of the good tradition of the company that agents were and are active in the company", and that "everywhere in the hierarchy". And although "Elf" has now been privatized, it still seems to be France's most important intelligence agency and actor in Africa. This then goes far into the area of ​​industrial espionage, for which no precise figures can be found. However, Claude Silberzahn , former director of the DGSE, said: “Of course, the DGSE carries out industrial espionage abroad in order to give French state corporations advantages.” In 1996 the company had a turnover of 35.5 billion euros.

France as a nuclear power

The biggest scandal of the DGSE in connection with France's role as a nuclear power was the sinking of the Greenpeace -Schiffes Rainbow Warrior on July 10 in 1985 by DGSE agents, in which the Dutch photographer Fernando Pereira was killed. Years before, French nuclear policy had met with increasing protests from environmentalists. The South Pacific states, who saw themselves exposed to new risks, joined this protest. In 1983, the French overseas territories - especially in New Caledonia - reached a new high point. A year later, David Longe , an avowed opponent of nuclear policy, was elected Prime Minister of New Zealand . During this time, which was extremely difficult for France's nuclear tests on the Mururoa Atoll, the action of the DGSE took place. As a political consequence of this affair, the Director General of the DGSE, Admiral Pierre Lacoste , and the Minister of Defense, Charles Hernu , were dismissed.

Control of the French intelligence services

The French intelligence services are largely only subject to executive self-control; there is no special parliamentary control - apart from the Commission Nationale de Controle des Interceptions de Securité (CNCIS), which is active in the area of ​​telephone control. In individual cases, however, parliament can set up committees of inquiry and control, the members of which are elected by a majority of parliament. The only official publications about the intelligence services are the reports of the commission - there is no report such as the constitutional protection report in the Federal Republic. The so-called “Public Rapport” of the DGSE has existed for a number of years, but it is not publicly accessible as it is primarily intended for the other services.

There are three bodies for executive control:

Due to its assignment to the Police nationale, the Haut Conseil de déontologie de la Police nationale has existed since 1993 with regard to the DST and the RG. In addition, there is the establishment of the mediateurs, who, however, has a weak position, which is mainly due to the fact that he is dependent on cooperation with the responsible minister for his control activities, who can refuse this at any time.

In September 2003, the decision of the “Conseil d'État” set a precedent in the area of ​​data protection: Michel Raoust, chairman of the “French Committee of Scientologists against Discrimination”, demanded access to his RG files since 1992 - and was right. For the first time, a French court asked the intelligence service and the Ministry of the Interior to prove the alleged “endangerment to public safety”.

Final considerations

The year 1989 represented a turning point for the intelligence service. While during the East-West conflict the range of tasks of both sides was aimed at a clearly defined enemy and the actors were primarily state, the task profile of the intelligence services changed after 1989 in this point . There is no longer a clearly defined enemy like the Soviet Union, but a multitude of possible threats. The area of ​​responsibility is moving away from the focus on purely military threats. The four pillars for the reorientation of the intelligence services are now organized crime, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, illegal immigration and terrorism. The French intelligence services are also preparing for these new threats. Alternative sources are being sought, for example research institutions, universities or NGOs are attempting to be involved . It is necessary for internal and external security to merge more and more.


  • Hirsch, Alexander: The control of the intelligence services . Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1996, ISBN 3-428-08823-9
  • Krieger, Wolfgang: Secret services in world history: espionage and covert actions from antiquity to the present . CH Beck, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-406-50248-2
  • Piekalkiewicz, Janusz : World history of espionage . Südwest Verlag, Munich 1988, ISBN 3-406-50248-2
  • Porch, Douglas: The French Secret Services: From the Dreyfus Affair to the Gulf War . Macmillan, London 1996, ISBN 978-0-374-15853-8

See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ BCRA entry in the catalog of the German National Library. German National Library , accessed on April 11, 2013 .
  2. ^ Charles de Gaulle and tasks of the BCRA: ICB Dear and MRD Foot in: The Oxford Companion to World War II Published: 2001 ISBN 978-0-19-860446-4
  3. Claude Faure: Revue historique des armées. 2007, accessed April 12, 2013 (French).
  4. ^ French Ministry of the Interior: Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intérieur. 2008, accessed April 10, 2013 (French).
  5. Décret n ° 92-523. June 16, 1992, accessed April 15, 2013 (French).
  6. ^ French government website: Décret n ° 2008-609. June 27, 2008, accessed April 12, 2013 (French).
  7. opinion in the French parliament by Didier Boulaud on the draft budget law for 2012.
  9. Compte rendu n ° 55. Committee on National Defense and the Armed Forces, February 19, 2013, accessed on April 13, 2013 (French).
  10. Website at