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Central Directorate of Internal Intelligence
Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intérieur

The Central Directorate of Internal Intelligence was created in 2008, reporting directly to the Ministry of the Interior. The DCRI was reformed and renamed as Direction générale de la Sécurité intérieure (General Directorate of Internal Security, DGSI) in January 2014, reporting directly to the Minister of the Interior and no longer being part of the National Police.

The DCRI became officially operational on 1 July 2008, through the merging of the Direction Centrale des Renseignements Généraux (RG) and the Direction de la Surveillance du Tterritoire (DST) of the French National Police; it is still informally known as the "RG". Bernard Squarcini, director of DST, was named head of the DCRI in 2008.

Before the 2008 reform, no reorganization of the architecture of the extent of domestic intelligence had been carried out since the creation of the Directorate for Territorial Surveillance (DST) at the Liberation. As recalled Bertrand Warusfel, if this decision apparently reconstructed the traditional duality between civilian and military services against espionage, it was actually an important development, the new management now have not only a repressive jurisdiction but also the skills "of research and exploitation of intelligence against-espionage".

Complementing this historical mission of espionage against two other essential missions are gradually entrusted to the DST: the fight against terrorism, and the defense of cultural heritage, the country's economic and scientific. However, far from establishing a monopoly of the DST domestic intelligence on this reorganization left two competing services.

Functionally, the DST is rivaled by the Central Directorate of General Information (DCRG) 7, Attached to the General Directorate of the National Police (NPD). Heirs of the former regime of General Lieutenancy and General Security, the RG were historically responsible for monitoring elements liable to weaken the regime.

As Jean-Marc Berliere recalled and René Lévy, "Targets" which nevertheless have their assigned evolved significantly in the period after the war: first in charge of the treatment and monitoring of the French Communist Party (PCF), the RG reorient after 1968 the extreme left organizations and autonomy movements. The turning point of 1989, however, led the RG to focus on the fight against the threat of terrorism and violent extremism as well as the maintenance of order, while the traditional task of monitoring political life faded.

The evolution of the terrorist threat led to questions about the informal division of powers between the DST (state terrorism) and RG (radical movements), therefore multiplying the risks of conflict between the services.

To face this new threat, both the RG that the DST each had many strengths. Regarding the DST, experience and relationships acquired on the objectives of terrorism against conventional state, the important analytical skills and the existence of a repressive jurisdiction could advocate for support this new threat. However, as concedes Jean-François Clair, assistant director of the DST 1997 and 2007, DST "was not really equipped due to territorial coverage somewhat patchy, unlike RG". Consequently, RG "began to carry out intelligence investigations within the same domain" that the DST situation "was generating some competition and, at the very least, a lack of coordination".

The 2008 reform undeniably contributed to streamline the administrative landscape of Internal Intelligence. On the theoretical level, it was based on the desire to combine the strengths of two main services - RG territorial coverage, capacity for analysis and repressive powers of the DST - and to distinguish between intelligence and the "General Information", which refers primarily the proximity information to prevent the public order crime.

Reporting to the General Directorate of the National Police (NPD), the DCRI included all personnel of the Directorate for Territorial Surveillance (DST) and a substantial part of the workforce of the Central Directorate of General Intelligence (DCRG). If information about the size of the DCRI are sorted, the Court of Auditors stated in a public report of 2011 that "the 1500 police officers from the DST and 3500 of DCRG were divided, reversing the order of magnitude between the DCRI and a new sub-department of the Central Directorate of Public Security (DCSP) responsible for the overall information.

In terms of missions, the 2008 reform intends to entrust to a single domestic intelligence service - the DCRI. For the mission of preventing terrorist acts. the DCRI had the repressive powers of the DST in the matter. More generally, pursuant to Decree No. 2008-609 of 27 June 2008 on the missions and organization of the Central Directorate of Internal Intelligence, the DCRI is responsible for "fight against all activities that may constitute an infringement of the fundamental interests of the nation".

The DCRI was organised with a headquarters and eight departments:

  • Economic Protection
  • Terrorism
  • Intelligence Technologies
  • Violent Subversion
  • General Administration
  • Support
  • Counter-Espionnage
  • International Affairs

On September 11th, 2010, the anniversary of Al Qaeda’s attacks on New York and Washington, the head of France’s counterterrorism operations, Bernard Squarcini of the Central Directorate of Internal Intelligence, said the risk of attacks on French soil has “never been as high” as it is now. Squarcini did not elaborate on the nature of the plots against the country, but he did touch on some of Al Qaeda’s motives for targeting France. The presence of French troops in Afghanistan is one reason.

US authorities are accessing and processing personal data of EU citizens on a large scale via, among others, the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping of cable-bound internet traffic (UPSTREAM) and direct access to the personal data stored in the servers of US-based private companies. The capacities of Sweden, France and Germany (in terms of budget and human resources) are low compared to the magnitude of the operations launched by GCHQ and the NSA and cannot be considered on the same scale.

In 2010 the tip from Spain was only a vague warning. But it was enough for France's domestic intelligence agents to go to work, tapping phones, tailing suspects and squeezing informants. Before long, they rolled up a group of Muslim men in a provincial French town who, beneath a tranquil surface, were drawing up al-Qaeda-inspired plans to set off a bomb in the Paris subway.

The plot was one of 15 planned terrorist attacks by jihadist cells in France that have been thwarted in recent years, according to a count by the Central Directorate of Internal Intelligence (DCRI), France's main antiterrorism force. One was a bomb plot directed against the directorate's own headquarters.

Mohamed Merah, a gunman who claimed responsibility for the killing of seven people in Toulouse, was reported to be a French intelligence asset, which raised questions about French security officials' failure to stop him. Merah, a French citizen of Algerian descent, claimed responsibility for killing three Jewish schoolchildren, a rabbi and three paratroopers earlier this month. After a 32-hour standoff with police, he died 28 March 2012 in a hail of gunfire as he jumped out a window of his apartment in the southern city of Toulouse.

Former intelligence chief Yves Bonnet claimed that Merah was reporting to the Central Directorate of Internal Intelligence (DCRI) in return for money. French intelligence agencies were apparently in close contact with Merah, trying to develop him as an informant inside Islamist networks. The investigation of Merah was led by the Central Directorate of Internal Intelligence (DCRI), run by Bernard Squarcini - a close associate of incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Some of the killers behind the attacks in Paris in November 2015 were previously known to have travelled to Syria to fight for Daash. Sami Amimour, one of the suicide-vest attackers at the Bataclan theater, was known to the authorities. Amimour was arrested in October 2012 with two other youths on suspicion of trying to travel to Yemen to fight. He was held and questioned for four days by the Central Directorate of Internal Intelligence (DCRI) before being charged. He was later given probation. 

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Page last modified: 17-11-2015 14:43:02 ZULU