DEFENCE

French spy agency DGSI emerges from shadows with first website

The DGSI website aims to demystify the agency's activities to millions of French people.  
The DGSI website aims to demystify the agency's activities to millions of French people.   AP - Stephane de Sakutin

France's intelligence agency, the DGSI, has launched its first website – giving ordinary folk a peek at its top secret missions fending off terrorism, cyberattacks, foreign spies and more.

Advertising

A year in the making, the website is a PR tool of sorts. It aims to demystify the agency's activities to millions of French people who are either unsure what it does, or who believe it was created to monitor the population.  

Described as “a tool for contact and exchange", the new online address also gives individuals another avenue for reporting a person suspected of having been radicalised.

“All of the world’s major intelligence services have dedicated website," DGSI director general Nicolas Lerner told a press conference Tuesday at the agency’s headquarters in the Paris suburb of Levallois-Perret.

“We have an obligation to publicise what we do."

Advice, info, quizzes

As well as offering practical advice on how to protect oneself from cyberattacks, the DGIS website warns citizens of the unscrupulous methods used by foreign spy agencies to recruit sources and collect sensitive information.

"A professional manipulator, a spy will first show sympathy and interest in the private life and activities of the person  they are targeting," it cautions.

"They are an enlightened strategist who will do everything in their power to trap their target in an insidious spiral from which that person will not be able to extricate themselves without outside help."

The website also offers a virtual museum packed with unusual objects related to the world of espionage – think James Bond-style gadgets – as well as quizzes for young people who might one day want to become secret agents.

Then there's info on how the service has been set up, the legal framework under which it operates and a list of the modern defence challenges it faces.

Active recruitment

Created in 2014, the DGSI is the resulting merger of two police services – the General Intelligence and the Directorate of Territorial Surveillance. It actively recruits hundreds of agents every year, boasting a team of almost 5,000 men and women.

The testimonies of some of those agents can be found on the website, where would-be agents can also lodge their job applications.

“Talking about the secret activities of an intelligence service is complicated," Lerner said.

“But it is precisely because we are a service whose activity is classified that we have a strong obligation to talk, to explain and to make known who we are.”

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