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Bernard Squarcini: “We Must Legalize Special Operations”

January 12, 2015

By Jean-Marc Leclerc

Translated from French

The former head of Homeland Security (DGSI) under Sarkozy calls for the implementation of an overarching legal framework against terrorism, and for increased surveillance in the public sphere.

Former head of France’s Homeland Security (DGSI) under Sarkozy, Bernard Squarcini discusses anti-terrorism measures after the recent attacks.

LE FIGARO – What is France’s intelligence service missing that is hindering its effectiveness?

Bernard Squarcini – In practical terms, we must urgently renew cooperation with Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey, which fluctuate, and, more importantly with Syria and Morocco, countries with which France’s cooperation has completely broken down. With Morocco, for example, there’s the issue with Mauritania, a country with extreme instability. How can we hit the targets without operational intelligence in Syria, for example? How do we keep updating the list of jihadists without the support of the Syrians? While diplomacy has its logic, it should at least allow for the long-term work of the intelligence community, with the maintenance of a backchannel between our intelligence officials.

What is still lacking in order to have an ideal arsenal [of intelligence services]?

There needs to be a comprehensive legal framework to unify the most effective measures. At present, it seems to be a patchwork, and there are huge oversights in the overall framework.

An example?

We need to legalize special operations. It must be legalized to allow tapping certain networks – that is to say, to allow the installation of microphones and cameras into specific areas and meetings, to know what is being said. It was clearly seen with the Kouachi brothers case, wiretapping cell phones is not always the most effective way.

Why?

Because these people have learned to be wary of the cell. And for good reason: their phone conversations got them caught by Iraqi industries in 2005; then the escape attempt situation in 2010 Belkacem. They learned from their mistakes. It is therefore necessary to approach closer to hear the whispers of the terrorists, especially since, in prison, they learn all the techniques to escape the police.