Document Type: 
Document Number (FOIA) /ESDN (CREST): 
Release Decision: 
Original Classification: 
Document Page Count: 
Document Creation Date: 
December 22, 2016
Document Release Date: 
January 3, 2012
Sequence Number: 
Case Number: 
Publication Date: 
August 27, 1985
Content Type: 
PDF icon CIA-RDP90-00965R000504580002-1.pdf109.46 KB
Declassified in Part - Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2012/01/03: CIA-RDP90-00965R000504580002-1 ARTICLE APPEAREq CHICAGO TRIBUNE 27 August 1985 French agency has a tough reputation By John Morrison PARIS [Reuters]-,France's se- cret service, at the center of a controversy. over the sabotaging of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior, is a military outfit that has frequently hit the headlines for its use of strongarm tactics. The General Directorate for Ex- ternal Security [DGSE], headed by Adm. Pierre Lacoste, is ac- cused by the French media of masterminding the sinking of the ship in the harbor at Auckland, New Zealand, on July 10 in which a crewman was killed. The ecology movement's vessel was to have led a protest fleet to France's nuclear test area at Mururoa Atoll. . President Francois Mitterrand's inquiry into the affair, headed by Gaullist Bernard Tricot, absolved the French secret service Tuesday of involvement in the bombing. However, the report did admit that a man and woman currently facing charges in connection with the incident were' members of the French secret service. The report also identified four other men be- lieved connected to the case as secret service agents. The DGSE, until 1982 known as the SDECE, was built in the 1940s by veterans of the wartime resis- tance against Nazi occupation, a brutal struggle with few rules. "This job is not for choirboys,'; one of them said. In a recent book on the service by journalists Roger Faligot and Pascal Krop, former French agents recount tale after tale of violent undercover exploits in the 1940s and 1950s. "It's a hoodlum's trade carried out by honest men. We kill only for reasons of state," the authors were told by Maurice Robert, a SDECE veteran who later became ambas- sador to Gabon. In 1948, SDECE agents kidnaped top Nazi commando Otto Skorzeny from an American prison in Darm- stadt in order to pump him for information about the Soviet Union. "Of course, the operation was only half-covered by headquarters in Paris. But he [Skorzeny] knew a lot about the Russians," Col. Michel Garder told Faligot and In the same year a SDECE pilot flew secretly into Czechoslovakia to bring out Hubert Ripka, an opponent of the communists who had just seized power in Prague. In the early 19%s the strongarm branch of the SDECE-the Service Action [SA]-was expanded to handle counterinsurgency. opera- tions against the Viet Minh in In- dochina. It had not only its own air squadron but its own special forces, the 11th Shock Airborne Batallion whose symbol was a black panther. In the Algerian war, the SDECE carried out assassinations, sa- botage and psychological warfare in France's ultimately futile eight- year struggle against the National Liberation Front (FLN). According to the book, these op- erations, though sometimes disowned by embarrassed poll- if they went wrong, were all authorized at the top by the governments of the Fourth Repub- lic. In October, 1956, after unsuc- cessful attempts to assassinate him-including a car-bomb in Cairo which killed 30 people-the SDECE captured FLN leader Ahmed Ben Bella by forcing his plane to land in Algiers on M light between Morocco and Tunisia. The operation caused a political dispute in Paris and resignations from the government of Guy Mol- let. One minister who stayed on was Mitterrand. Between 1956 and 1%2, the SDECE sank a dozen ships bringing arms to the FLN and killed several arms traffickers, mostly West Germans. These attacks were claimed by a mysterious organization called the "Red Hand"-in fact a front for officers of the Service Action trained at Cercottes near Orleans in "homo" (homicide] operations. After the end of the Algerian war in 1962, the SDECE shifted the center of its operations to Africa, under the close supervision of de Gaulle's legendary aide Jacques Foccart. Foccart's name became a byword for cloak-and-dagger op. erations in Africa, including the supply of arms to the Biafran se- cession' in Nigeria and attempts to overthrow Guinean leader Ahmed Sekou Tours, In 1965, the SDECE was severely shaken by the Ben Barka affair- its involvement in the kidnaping and presumed murder in Paris of a Moroccan opposition leader. De gaulle, wanting the service kept under a tighter rein, trans- ferred responsibility from the f seer's office to the Do- Since hen a new chief, afire wept away the old guardina~wpurge-ft SDECE has tried with limited re. sources to compete with the CIA and the KGB in the sophisticated world of East-West espionage. But its image problem has hampered recruitment of the best and brightest. "The chronic problem of the French secret services is that, un- like the Anglo-Saxons, they have been unable to recruit scientists, economists and linguists on cam- puses," Faligot and Krop write. Mistrust of the SDECE has been widespread on the left. The 1972 opposition program signed by Mitterrand and his communist al- lies promised to abolish it, a pledge later quietly forgotten. Defense Minister Charles Hernu persuaded Mitterrand to leave the SDECE under the control of his ministry and appoint his friend Pierre Marion, a former aviation industry executive with little expe- rience in intelligence, as its new chief. The SDECE was renamed the DGSE and barred from operating within France. But Marion's wholesale reorganization, purges and prickly temperament had a disastrous effect on morale and in 1982 he was replaced by Lacoste. Declassified in Part - Sanitized Copy Approved for Release 2012/01/03: CIA-RDP90-00965R000504580002-1