France’s spy ser­vice bulks up amid ter­ror threats

The Pak Banker - - 6i Nternational -

PARIS: There's no French James Bond. But a new push may set the stage for one.

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 hostage­tak­ings abroad, bomb scares at the Eif­fel Tower and fall­out from Wik­iLeaks' pub­li­ca­tion of se­cret U.S. diplo­matic ca­bles. France is also set to ban face­cov­er­ing 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-to­bot­tom se­cu­rity re­view com­pleted in 2008.

Pres­i­dent Nicolas Sarkozy's con­ser­va­tive govern­ment is stick­ing to the re­view's blue­print even as U.S. and Bri­tish in­tel­li­gence agen­cies are fac­ing cut­backs, and de­spite the eco­nomic cri­sis that has pinched state pock­ets across Europe.

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.

It's a big boost for an agency that's lit­tle known, de­spite hav­ing agents in hot spots around the world. -Ap

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