Former French DGSE intelligence chief Alain Shue, 2011 picture of the year (c) european-security.com
Our blog publishes a translation of this interesting and informative interview, very frank for a person of his level.
Did the presence and transition to action by Islamist militants in Paris surprise you, although some of them were known and wanted?
Of course not. For about a year now, intelligence specialists, including me, who has been retired for 12 for years, have sounded the alarm against the imminent risk of terrorist attacks. It is necessary to clearly understand that the “Islamic State” (IG) has a clear strategy of its own development in becoming a state, while it loses its ground when resources are depleted, which forces it to resort to terrorist acts, as was once the case with “Al -Kaidoy. For the IG you need to maintain your persuasiveness, your sponsors and your support. Prior to 13, November, it was only about people who were led by their immediate supervisors, while not receiving direct instructions from the IG. They carried out lightning-fast actions in Syria and they lacked professionalism. As an example, recall the case of a terrorist who shot himself in the foot, or an episode with the high-speed train Thalys, where the militants are stuck weapon. But today, on the contrary, we are confronted with real, well-trained and organized militants who have taken violence to a new level.
Is this the reason for the transparency of the borders of the "Schengen zone"?
These guys have European passports, both real and fake, which simplifies their task. But due to the fact that together with the "Schengen zone" we have created a common legal space, but without common legal rules. Specifically, you can go somewhere border control, in the country where it is carried out not so carefully, because it is not very concerned about security issues, and then move anywhere without any control. No one in Europe has a passport with security elements, and our borders are transparent. You can rejoice in this fact, because otherwise the majority of the population would feel uncomfortable. Fortunately, we live in legal and free countries. There is no consensus regarding the introduction of permanent control of a person at the border, like that practiced in Israel. With us it will be impossible.
An investigation into the events of November 13 revealed deficiencies in the conduct of internal intelligence. What should be done to fix them?
Are we talking about the shortcomings of the work of firefighters or the police, when there was a deliberate arson in the forest? Fortunately, I believe that the DST (Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire, Territorial Supervision Directorate) and the RG (Renseignements Généraux, General Intelligence Directorate) were merged into 2008 in the new Intelligence Directorate (Central Intelligence Agency) ) [in 2014, transformed into DGSI, Direction Générale de la Sécurité Intérieure, General Directorate of Internal Security] was a good idea. In theory, it was possible to combine the capabilities of intelligence and criminal police (Police Judiciaire, PJ) to control the territory, especially problem areas. The trouble is that this association was poorly implemented. Instead of integrating all the RGs, they were taken apart: a small part was included in the DCRI, some were in the PJ, and the rest were transferred to the regional services. The specificity of the RG, which was to work in the territory, was weakened. Since RG was less engaged in journalists and trade union leaders, and kept abreast of problem neighborhoods. And this is a loss.
In addition, according to the American model, they wanted to focus on technical intelligence, on “large amounts of information” and the like. However, this is not a very effective way. It is worth looking at the United States, the statements of the Director of the NSA, General Alexander, made in 2013 year, regarding the very relative effectiveness of the billions of dollars that were spent after 11 September 2001 year. Today in this matter we are in the same place: we are concentrating our resources on technical intelligence and weakening agent intelligence. In order to justify the police, I note that before November 13, there were hundreds of successful searches that indicated that they had a goal, but that there was no legal framework or political will to take concrete steps. Failure, if any, is also often associated with the political side of the issue.
What about foreign intelligence, DGSE, your former home?
Here is the same trouble as in the case of counterintelligence: the priority of technical data. Today, there are not enough Arabic-speaking people in DGSE who are well aware of Salafism and their way of thinking. When people see the size of salaries in public institutions, real experts go to other places. In addition, there is an organization of the case "in the Gallic manner": with a clumsy hierarchy, with structures that do not sufficiently interact with each other. The underfinancing of agent intelligence is particularly felt, as well as the lack of local funds, as technical intelligence funds are financed, as well as internal issues.
Is the level of communication between DGSE and DGSI satisfactory?
"In general, they are positive," if we apply the formula of Georges Marchais. But you still need exchange items, and this is more difficult, since there is no reconnaissance on the ground. More seriously, the problem of DGSE, in which I have worked for 35 for years, is that you need to know the moment when the information sent to DGSI will take its course, that is, when the information becomes known. This leads us to the question: at what point is my source, who is often abroad in hazardous conditions, at risk? As for us, as I believe, for journalists, the protection of our sources is the most important issue. But when there is no danger to the source, the information in a large volume is transmitted without hesitation.
What needs to be done to improve the analysis and use of intelligence obtained?
You can always do better. In order to use, it is necessary to analyze, and to analyze, you need competent employees who know the culture, history, the geography of a particular country. Required at the same time as specialists with great experience, as well as "apprentices" who need to be trained. But our politicians have a complete lack of experience in matters of intelligence. At the beginning of 2001, I was asked to reorient some of my people engaged in the fight against terrorism to counter illegal immigration because of a case of finding a ship jammed with migrants. And then, on September 12 of the same year, I had to double the staff of the anti-terrorism units, as if I could find similar specialists in a day… 200-300
How is the exchange of information between European countries?
Not very well, since the exchange and transfer of intelligence between national intelligence services is strictly regulated and clamped in the framework of the "Schengen zone". In addition, some countries would like to maintain their sovereignty in this area. In addition, the PNR system (passenger name record - a database by the names of passengers) has not yet been created, since several countries oppose it. Again, not enough common legal rules. The exchange of intelligence from foreign intelligence is easier on a bilateral level, from country to country, as habits and old arrangements take place. But you can not talk about everything on the forum, where there are 28 countries, sometimes with different interests. And of course, there are problems at the level of large-scale electronic intelligence, which is regarded by many as a clash with the freedoms of citizens.
Information sharing takes place with great powers such as the USA or Russia?
It works somehow with the USA. They have 16 intelligence structures that are not related to each other, 300000 employees work in them. This is a realm of narrow specialization and isolation of one department from others. I will give a simple example. The FBI may request information from us, but cannot give it to us, since it is secret. This is problem. In the case of Russia, there is another kind of complexity: the integration of intelligence services in the service of Russian foreign policy. In short, they give us only what they want, and this information needs to be checked. Every time she needs to be treated with great care.
Maybe we do not conduct regular reconnaissance in the destroyed states, or those countries where there is a war, such as Syria, Iraq, Libya?
Pretty much yes. France broke all ties with the Syrian special services DGSE. Although the special services were created in order to have dinner even with the devil himself, otherwise they are not needed. The fact that the authorities wanted to break off all relations with the Syrian regime is a fully justified decision. But the role of the special services is to be able to, and, if necessary, maintain an informal channel of communication. When the Syrian special services recently tried to restore the informal channel of communication with the help of former employees of the French special services, they received a categorical refusal. It doesn't matter whether the right or the left is in power, but there is a misunderstanding of what the special services are. Our job is to maintain contact with suspicious persons. We are not judges, not policemen, nor diplomats, and if we are allowed to communicate with Syrian agents, this will not be the political intelligence of the Assad regime.
In the case of Libya and Iraq, several good contacts have also been lost in recent years. Not every day, but we worked with them against Islamist violence. We knew that the list of 50 people that they sent us, there were five opposition members to their regime. We took that into account. Today we are blind; from these three countries we receive no information. And in the gray areas, where there is no state power, in the Sahel or anywhere else, it is difficult to work with the blond with blue eyes, or to recruit agents on the spot, since the Islamic-mafia groups are very dangerous and kill without hesitation.
At what level is the exchange conducted with the countries of the Maghreb, Turkey and Egypt?
With the countries of the Maghreb, as with the rest, the exchange is conducted in accordance with their own interests, but it is very useful. For example, it was Moroccan intelligence that helped us in recent days to get to the group from San Denis. With the Algerian special services work is carried out in accordance with the policy in relation to the ruling regime. In Tunisia, special services are almost destroyed. In Egypt, they are weakened, but still work. As for Turkey, then let's say - they are not easy.
Are there any countries that are playing their own game, or who have other considerations regarding the Islamists, different from ours?
Yes, there are ideological and financial sponsors of terrorism. Petrosteits of the Persian Gulf, who are trying by all means, especially by spreading the ideology of Salafism, to prevent the creation of a Shiite axis from Lebanon to Iran, which have problems with legitimacy in the eyes of Muslims, and which prevent any manifestation of democracy. Saudi Arabia, for example, 30 has been promoting Salafism and Wahhabism in Europe for years, with the help of schools and foundations, and today we see the result. Even 30 years ago, French Muslims did not know what Wahhabism is. At one time, in the 1980s, Iran resorted to state terrorism, but refused it.
In conclusion, you are struggling to collect less data, but to develop agent intelligence in the French special services.
In the US, a massive collection of information did not allow to avoid the terrorist attacks in Boston, and even the weekly shootings on campuses, which the authors announced on social networks. It is not necessary to put all the eggs in one basket, namely, in the mass tapping. We need human and operational resources. Having abandoned one electronic intelligence satellite, we can hire hundreds of people. But it takes time and political will. At the end of the 1990s, after the 1995 attacks of the year related to the situation in Algeria, they came to me and said that my service is expensive, it does not solve major problems, since nothing happens. The Ministry of Economy made a sad appearance when included in the budget vacancies. The size of today's DGSE is 4500-5000 people, of which 1000 people belong to administrative staff. The problem is not in such numbers, but in how the frames are used and in their quality. The same applies to DGSI. I add that in the gendarmerie there are 80000 people who once stood on every corner and talked to everyone. They were retrained as tax collectors and grandfathers of Morozov on the side of the roads, instead of creating a special corps, a traffic police. Therefore, the operational work of counterintelligence and the protection of the territory of the country weakened.