France’s spy service bulks up amid terror threats


From Jamey Keaten, the AP:  France’s secretive international spy agency, the DGSE, is recruiting hundreds of people and getting a budget boost, despite frugal times, to better fend off threats like terrorism and nuclear proliferation. France’s answer to the CIA is buffing its image as well, with its first-ever spokesman and a new website.

The move follows hostage-takings abroad, bomb scares at the Eiffel Tower and fallout from WikiLeaks’ publication of secret U.S. diplomatic cables. France is also set to ban face-covering Islamic veils, which has roiled Muslim extremists around the world and drawn threats from Al-Qaida.

The DGSE changes have been long in coming, part of France’s efforts to beef up its network of intelligence operatives as called for in a top-to-bottom security review completed in 2008. …

France’s draft 2011 budget would give the DGSE a 13-percent funding hike – just a year after France hit a record-high 7.7 percent budget deficit. The agency is adding 500 staff jobs over the next five years, and the prime minister recently inaugurated a new national Intelligence Academy. …

The investment in France’s spies boils down to a bet that intelligence-gathering matters as much, if not more, than military might in this era of terrorism, pirate attacks, politically minded hostage-takings and cybercrime.

"Even the most impartial observer has to recognize that institutionally, budgetarily and in terms of communication, a major evolution is under way" at the DGSE, said Sebastien Laurent, a historian at the University of Bordeaux who co-founded an intelligence research center.  (photo: DGSE)

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