Monday, April 05, 2010

Toward a French National Security Council

The new French Council of Defense and National Security (CDSN – Conseil de defense et de sécurité nationale) and its complement office, the National Intelligence Council (Conseil national du Renseignement CNR) were created by an official decree on Christmas Eve. Both entities will be chaired by the Head of State, Nicolas Sarkozy. The day before, the Council of Ministers, appointed Patrick Calvar, number two in the DCRI, (formerly DST), as Director of the DGSE (External Security). He will be replaced by Frederick Veaux, the current deputy director of the Police force and head of the Sub-Directorate of Criminal Affairs. This is the third time in the history of the DGSE that a policeman has joined “la piscine” at this level, following Jean-Pierre Pochon and Michel Lacarrière.

French intelligence and security agencies have often been accused of fighting each other. Their bosses have sometimes been associated with domestic political scandals or factions, and have occasionally become pawns in a power game.

President Sarkozy – who believes he was the victim of such practices during his rise to power – is determined to “reshape” the French “intelligence community”. His plan to set up a French equivalent of the US National Security Council took shape with the creation of the “Conseil de défense et de sécurité nationale” (CDSN). The CDSN will have an intelligence arm, uniting the chiefs of the six French intelligence and security agencies, the “Conseil National du Renseignement” (CNR) similar to the British Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC). For the first time, there is also a French “national intelligence coordinator”. Bernard Bajolet, the 60 year old former ambassador in Iraq and Algeria, was appointed in 2008, with the mission to ensure that the half-dozen different intelligence and security agencies cooperate together.

According to French sources, until now the CNR was not involved in the latest naval counterterrorism cases which were directly delt with by the Presidency Staff.

President Sarkozy has already simplified the French security world by merging the two rival agencies – the equivalent of MI5 – , the “Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire” (DST) and the “Renseignements Généraux” (RG). The new single internal security agency, called the “Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intérieur “(DCRI), is one of six agencies which will participate in the new spy school.

According to French sources, Sarkozy is happy with the operational cooperation between the DGSE and the DCRI, and has asked for a similar movement between the DGSE and the DRM (Direction du renseignement militaire). This last agency is under the command of the Chief of Staff.

In this context French spies and intelligence officers could soon have a dedicated school. This Intelligence Academy could be hosted within the walls the Ecole Militaire in Paris which already host the Institut des Hautes Etudes de Defense Nationale (IHEDN). This idea appeared in the White Paper on Security and National Defense published in June 2008. The new spy academy will be created over the next six months. Its job will be to instruct spy chiefs in the ethics and legal constraints of intelligence and counter-intelligence and to keep them aware and up to date of the latest security threats and the latest espionage techniques. Most of all, the academy will seek to ‘encourage a common spirit’ amongst senior officials who have to work together more and more and can be moved from agency to agency. There will be an intelligence “brevet” or diploma that will be recognised by all French intelligence organisations.

A key figure, whose name will be officially released in a few days, will be appointed to head a study mission on the project.

The school will be reserved for civil servants and militaries from six French intelligence agencies : the Central Directorate of Internal Intelligence (DCRI) – under the Ministry of Interior -, the General Directorate of External Security (DGSE), the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DRM) and the Directorate for Protection and Security of Defense (DPSD) – under the Ministry of Defense – , Tracfin and the National Intelligence and customs investigations (DNRED) from the Ministry of Finances. These groups employ over 11 200 people.

The military planning law passed in July, for the years 2009-2014, indicated that “The management will be harmonized and there will be more cross over between services and departments, particularly in the areas of recruitment and training”. this career path will offer more opportunities for mobility between services and some common training courses will be created.

Several reports have completed the brain storming on the topic. The first, headed by Bernard Pecheur, a member of the Conseil d’Etat for the President and published in July, was devoted to human resources in the intelligence field. His conclusions insisted on the proliferation of bridges between the different agencies and the need to attract and recruit high-level specialists. Bernard Pecheur, also outlined the increasing presence of technical specialist as linguists or computer engineers in agencies, which are more and more “pooled” during common operations.

A second report to Bernard Bajolet, released by Florian Blazy defines the contours of possible joint training. Courses should incorporate “modules” of general intelligence, threats, the “rules” of secrecy, the legal framework, ethics, technique, etc… The school could become a point of passage necessary to develop one’s career and get a higher grade.

Last but not least, the project must now be compliant with the financial context of budget cuts. The next General review of public policy (RGPP), will examine the project and give it … or not, the green light....