Directorate-General for External Security

"DGSE" redirects here. For American conglomerate formerly known as Dallas Gold and Silver Exchange, see DGSE Companies.
General Directorate for External Security
Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure

Partout où nécessité fait loi
("In every place where necessity makes law")
Agency overview
Formed April 2, 1982
Preceding agency
Jurisdiction Government of France
Headquarters 141 Boulevard Mortier, Paris XX, France
Employees 5,161
Annual budget US$731,807,192.50
Minister responsible
Agency executive
Parent agency Ministry of Defence

The General Directorate for External Security (French: Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure, DGSE) is France's external intelligence agency. The French equivalent to the United Kingdom's MI6 and the United States' CIA, the DGSE operates under the direction of the French Ministry of Defence and works alongside its domestic counterpart, the DGSI (General Directorate for Internal Security), in providing intelligence and safeguarding national security, notably by performing paramilitary and counterintelligence operations abroad. As with most other intelligence agencies, details of its operations and organization are not made public.[1]

The DSGE's head office is in the 20th arrondissement of Paris.[2] The DGSE is considered one of the world's most respected intelligence agencies, especially in regards to economic intelligence.[3]



The DGSE can trace its roots back to 1947, when a central external intelligence agency, known as the SDECE, was founded to combine under one head a variety of separate agencies – some, such as the Deuxième Bureau, dating from the time of Napoleon III and some, such as the BCRA, from the Free France of World War II. It remained independent until the mid-1960s, when the SDECE was discovered to have been involved in the kidnapping and presumed murder of Mehdi Ben Barka, a Moroccan revolutionary living in Paris. Following this scandal, the agency was placed under the control of the French ministry of defence. It was restructured in 1981, eventually acquiring its current name (Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure) in April 1982.[1]

In 1992, most of the defence responsibilities of the DGSE, no longer suitable to the post-Cold War context, were transferred to the Military Intelligence Directorate (DRM), a new military agency.[4] Combining the skills and knowledge of five military groups, the DRM was created to close the intelligence gaps of the 1991 Gulf War.[5]

Cold war era rivalries

The SDECE and DGSE have been shaken by numerous scandals. In 1968, for example, Philippe Thyraud de Vosjoli, who had been an important officer in the French intelligence system for 20 years, asserted in published memoirs that the SDECE had been deeply penetrated by the Soviet KGB in the 1950s. He also indicated that there had been periods of intense rivalry between the French and American intelligence systems. In the early 1990s a senior French intelligence officer created another major scandal by revealing that the DGSE had conducted economic intelligence operations against American businessmen in France.[6]

A major scandal for the service in the late cold war was the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior in 1985. The Rainbow Warrior was sunk by operatives in what the service named operation Satanique, killing one of the shipmates. The operation was ordered by the French President François Mitterrand.[7] New Zealand was outraged that its sovereignty was violated by an ally, as was the Netherlands since the killed Greenpeace activist was a Dutch citizen and the ship had Amsterdam as its port of origin.

Political controversies

The agency was conventionally run by French military personnel until 1999, when former diplomat Jean-Claude Cousseran was appointed its head. Cousseran had served as an ambassador to Turkey and Syria, as well as a strategist in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Cousseran reorganized the agency to improve the flow of information,[8] following a series of reforms drafted by Bruno Joubert, the agency's director of strategy at that time.[9]

This came during a period when the French government was formed as a cohabitation between left and right parties. Cousseran, linked to the Socialist Party, was therefore obliged to appoint Jean-Pierre Pochon of the Gaullist RPR as head of the Intelligence Directorate. Being conscious of the political nature of the appointment, and wanting to steer around Pochon, Cousseron placed one of his friends in a top job under Pochon. Alain Chouet, a specialist in terrorism, especially Algerian and Iranian networks, took over as chief of the Security Intelligence Service. He had been on post in Damascus at a time when Cousseran was France's ambassador to Syria. Chouet began writing reports to Cousseran that by-passed his immediate superior, Pochon.[9]

Politics eventually took precedence over DGSE's intelligence function. Instead of informing the president's staff of reports directly concerning President Chirac, Cousseran informed only Socialist prime minister Lionel Jospin, who was going to run against Chirac in the 2002 presidential election. Pochon learned of the maneuvers only in March 2002 and informed Chirac's circle of the episode. He then had a furious argument with Cousseran and was informally told he wasn't wanted around the agency anymore. Pochon nonetheless remained Director of Intelligence, though he no longer turned up for work. He remained "ostracized" until the arrival of a new DGSE director, Pierre Brochand, in August 2002.[9]



The DGSE includes the following services:

Action Division

Main article: Division Action

The action division (Division Action) is responsible for planning and performing clandestine operations. It also fulfills other security-related operations such as testing the security of nuclear power plants (as it was revealed in Le Canard Enchaîné in 1990) and military facilities such as the submarine base of the Île Longue, Bretagne. The division's headquarters are located at the fort of Noisy-le-Sec.


Headquarters, boulevard Mortier

The DGSE headquarters, codenamed CAT (Centre Administratif des Tourelles), are located at 141 Boulevard Mortier in the 20th arrondissement in Paris, approximately 1 km northeast of the Père Lachaise Cemetery. The building is often referred to as La piscine ("the swimming pool") because of the nearby Piscine des Tourelles of the French Swimming Federation.

A project named "Fort 2000" was supposed to allow the DGSE headquarters to be moved to the fort of Noisy-le-Sec, where the Action Division was already stationed. However, the project was often disturbed and interrupted due to lacking funds, which were not granted until the 1994 and 1995 defence budgets. The allowed budget passed from 2 billion francs to one billion, and as the local workers and inhabitants started opposing the project, it was eventually canceled in 1996. The DGSE instead received additional premises located in front of the Piscine des Tourelles.

Size and importance


The DGSE's budget is entirely official (it is voted upon and accepted by the French parliament). It generally consists of about €500M, in addition to which are added special funds from the Prime Minister (often used in order to finance certain operations of the Action Division). How these special funds are spent has always been kept secret.

Some known yearly budgets include:

According to Claude Silberzahn, one of its former directors, the agency's budget is divided in the following manner:


As of 18 July 2012 the organisation had inaugurated its current logo. The bird of prey represents the sovereignty, operational capacities, international operational nature, and the efficiency of the DGSE. France is depicted as a sanctuary in the logo. The lines depict the networks utilized by the DGSE.[12]



SIGINT installations in the Domme commune.

Various tasks and roles are generally appointed to the DGSE:

Counter-intelligence on French soil is not conducted by the DGSE but by the Direction centrale du renseignement intérieur (DCRI).

Known operations






DGSE officers or alleged officers

Notable DGSE officers or alleged officers
Name(s) Status and known actions
Marc Aubrière An officer who was kidnapped by Al-Shabaab militia in Somalia in 2009 and managed to escape.[27]
Denis Allex An officer who was kidnapped by Al-Shabaab militia in Somalia in 2009.[28][29] He was killed on January 11, 2013 by the miltants during a failed rescue attempt.
Guillaume Didier An officer of the Action Division who disappeared in 2003 following the failure of a DGSE operation in Morocco.
Philippe de Dieuleveult A supposed DGSE agent who mysteriously disappeared during an expedition in Zaire in 1985.
Hervé Jaubert A former French navy officer and DGSE agent who moved to Dubai in 2004 to build recreational submarines. Following allegations of fraud, his passport was confiscated in 2008. Jaubert escaped on a dinghy to India and resurfaced in Florida in the U.S. where he filed a lawsuit against Dubai World.[30]
Roland Verge Chief Petty Officer involved in the Rainbow Warrior operation, arrested in Australia, escaped by French submarine
Gérard Andries Petty Officer involved in the Rainbow Warrior operation, arrested in Australia, escaped by French submarine
Bartelo Petty Officer involved in the Rainbow Warrior operation, arrested in Australia, escaped by French submarine
Louis-Pierre Dillais Commander of the Rainbow Warrior operation, as acknowledged on New Zealand television
Alain Mafart and Dominique Prieur Two DGSE officers who took part to the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior and who were subsequently arrested by New Zealand police.
Xavier Maniguet A former DGSE agent who also took part in the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior.
Pierre Martinet A former DGSE agent, who retired after having his cover blown while watching Islamist militants in London.[31] Martinet later wrote a book uncovering details of how the DGSE planned its assassination of political targets. He was subsequently sentenced to six months in prison for divulging defence secrets.
Bernard Nut A French army officer and DGSE agent responsible for actions conducted in the Côte d'Azur and Middle East regions, and whose assassination in 1985 made headlines in French media.
Philippe Rondot A retired French army general and former councilor in charge of coordinating foreign intelligence for the French ministry of defence.
Gérard Royal A former DGSE agent accused of being a Rainbow Warrior bomber and brother of French presidential candidate Ségolène Royal.[32]

See also


  1. 1 2 DGSE. (2009). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved October 5, 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online:
  2. "Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure (DGSE)" (Archive). (French government). Retrieved on 31 January 2014. "141, boulevard Mortier 75020 Paris"
  3. The Diplomat" (The diplomat, 23 May 2014).
  4. Polisar, Pati. (2003). Inside France's Dgse: The General Directorate for External Security. The Rosen Publishing Group, p.18
  5. Polisar, Pati. (2003). Inside France's Dgse: The General Directorate for External Security. The Rosen Publishing Group, p.19
  6. "Intelligence (international relations)". (2009). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved October 9, 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online:Encyclopædia Britannica
  7. "Mitterrand ordered bombing of Rainbow Warrior, spy chief says". Times Online.
  8. Polisar, Pati. (2003). Inside France's DGSE: The General Directorate for External Security. The Rosen Publishing Group, p.17
  9. 1 2 3 4 Intelligence Online (2002). N° 439 (October 24). Online Summary
  10. "The activities and challenges of the service" (French) French ministry of defence. October 2006. (Retrieved October 5, 2009)
  11. "Projet de loi de finances pour 2009 : Défense - Environnement et soutien de la politique de défense" (French) French Senate report (Retrieved October 17, 2009)
  12. "Our Logo" (Archive) Directorate-General for External Security. 18 July 2012. Retrieved on 31 January 2014.
  13. Schweizer, Peter (1996). "The Growth of Economic Espionage: America Is Target Number One". Foreign Affairs. 75 (1): 9–14 [p. 14]. JSTOR 20047464.
  14. Schweizer, Peter (1996). "The Growth of Economic Espionage: America Is Target Number One". Foreign Affairs. 75 (1): 9–14 [p. 12]. JSTOR 20047464.
  15. Prunier, Gérard (1995). The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide. Columbia University Press. p. 176. ISBN 0-231-10408-1.
  16. "Spy lifts lid on al-Qaeda". BBC News. November 16, 2006.
  17. Nasiri, Omar (2008). Inside the Jihad: My Life with Al Qaeda. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-02389-9.
  18. Global Research (May 27, 2006). "Classified French DGSE intelligence report: Al Qaeda Training Camp passed from Control of CIA to Bin Laden in 1995". Archived from the original on March 6, 2008. Retrieved October 7, 2009.
  19. BBC News, Two jailed over Tunisia bombing (February 5, 2009)
  20. BBC News, French failed hostage rescue sparks row (July 25, 2003)
  21. BBC News, Hostage coup boosts French pride. (December 23, 2004)
  22. BBC News, Freed journalist back in France (June 12, 2005)
  23. Le Devoir, Ben Laden ni mort ni malade? (French article) (Published September 25, 2006)
  24. Le Devoir, Mais où est donc Ben Laden? (French article) (Published September 28, 2006)
  25. Sky News, Terror Names Linked To Doomed Flight AF 447 (June 10, 2009)
  26. Intelligence Online,"DGSE undermined by failed Somalia mission",(January 30, 2013)
  27. "With Aid of Forgotten Bolt, Frenchman Escapes Somalis". New York Times. August 26, 2009.
  28. "French spy hostage still alive in Somalia". Middle East Online. December 28, 2010.
  29. Giraud, Pierre-Marie (November 7, 2012). "Un agent de la DGSE retenu en otage depuis trois ans en Somalie". Agence France-Presse.
  30. "French 007 tells of great escape from Dubai wearing a wetsuit under a burka", Daily Mail. 24-08-2009. (Retrieved 17-10-2009)
  31. BBC News, Busybodies blow French spy cover (April 27, 2005)
  32. BBC News, New Zealand rules out new Greenpeace probe (October 2, 2006)
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