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French Intelligence Agencies



France has six intelligence agencies. Three fall under the authority of the Ministry of Defense: the Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure (DGSE, Directorate General on Exterior Security), the Direction du renseignement militaire (DRM, Directorate on Military Intelligence), and the Direction de la protection et de la sécurité de la défense (DPSD, Directorate on Defense Protection and Security). Two agencies fall under the authority of the Ministry of Finance: the Cellule de traitement du renseignement et action contre les circuits financiers clandestins (TRACFIN, Service Against the Laundering of Capital and the Financing of Terrorism) and the Direction nationale du renseignement et des enquêtes douanières (DNRED, National Directorate on Customs Intelligence and Investigations). Finally, the Ministry of the Interior has an intelligence service as well, the Direction centrale du renseignement intérieur (DCRI, Central Directorate on Domestic Intelligence).

French intelligence agencies operate within an ill-defined legal framework. A 2013 parliamentary report noted that much of France’s intelligence agencies still operate in a very blurry “para-legal” or “extra-legal” environment, despite some efforts by the legislative branch to provide a better framework. The six main intelligence agencies mentioned above were all created by decisions of the executive branch rather than by legislation. The DGSE, DPSD, DRM, DCRI, and TRACFIN were all created by decrees, and the DNRED was created by an arrêté (executive decision).[5] Only in 2011 did the French Parliament provide some legislative basis for the creation of these agencies, by adopting a law stating that specialized intelligence services are appointed by executive decision [arrêté] of the Prime Minister. Furthermore, the regulation of French intelligence agencies rests on many decrees, executive decisions, circulars, and instructions that are classified.

Until 2011 French intelligence operatives were subject to the relevant provisions of the Criminal Code if they were caught under the cover of a false or borrowed identity. The 2011 law, which implicitly acquiesced in the creation of the six French intelligence agencies, was the first law to provide some legal cover for the use of false or borrowed identities by intelligence operatives. Furthermore, while there is some legislation on the interception of communications, certain aspects of intelligence gathering are not protected by any laws. It appears, for example, that no legislation authorizes intelligence agencies to use certain means such as “bugging” a private location, surreptitiously taking pictures of a person, or tracking the geographic location of a telephone or vehicle.

France is one of the most policed states in the world, with approximately 394 public personnel per 100,000 inhabitants. The French system of policing, like many others in Europe, differs significantly from that of the United States, which features city police departments. The French police are a national force led by chiefs in Paris. In the provinces, police forces answer not to mayors but to the regional administrators known as prefects. The policing system is composed of two separate organizations, the civilian National Police and the military gendarmerie, as well as one further component, the Directorate of Territorial Security (Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire — DST). The minister of interior controls the National Police and the DST and exercises operational control over the gendarmerie.

France maintains its paramilitary Gendarmerie Nationale, one of the police system’s two branches. The gendarmerie is an integrated part of the national military organization and supported by the defense budget. The gendarmerie exercises police authority in rural and small urban areas, while the non-military branch of the police, the National Police, has jurisdiction over urban areas with more than 10,000 inhabitants.

The paramilitary gendarmerie is the organization in France ultimately responsible for homeland security. Much of the increase in the military budget of 2003–8, an increase slated to reinforce the French military’s capacity to fight terrorism, was devoted to bolstering the gendarmerie.

The Fillon government had already greatly increased the number of staff in the Directorate-General for External Security (DGSE) and had merged the Directorate of Territorial Surveillance (DST) and part of the general intelligence into the central intelligence headquarters Indoor - DCRI. Your government, Mr. Minister, rightly elevated the DCRI to the position of Internal Security Directorate - ISDB - and strengthened the territorial intelligence service - LSVCC - which was too weak, as the Merah case showed .

The National Directorate for Intelligence and Customs Investigations - DNRED, DGSI and DGSE, and their capacities for action, needed to be strengthened. There were some limitations: for example, agents, if they have access to the files, can not extract information from them and interconnect them with the data in the service-specific files. With regard to the files, recommendations included the systematization of checks on travel documents on the occasion of a first entry into the Schengen area for nationals of that area. Clearly, the Schengen border code, which provides only for a "minimum verification", is insufficient.


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Page last modified: 31-03-2017 19:37:15 ZULU