Journal of Cold War Studies 4.3 (2002) 134-137
[Access article in PDF]
Mémoires d'un patron de la DST
Yves Bonnet, Contre-espionnage: Mémoires d'un patron de la DST [Counter- intelligence: Memoirs of a former head of the DST]. Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 2000. 555 pp. FF 135.
Amid the controversy surrounding the publication of an autobiography by Dame Stella Rimington—the former director of the British Security Service (MI5)—comes a memoir by Yves Bonnet, the head of the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire (DST, France's internal security service) from 1982 to 1985. Bonnet's account, which also covers his prefectoral appointments, is rich in detail and will be of interest to all students of the Cold War, intelligence, and terrorism.
In November 1982, French president François Mitterrand nominated Yves Bonnet director of the DST to replace Marcel Chalet, who was retiring. Bonnet's selection was a surprise because he did not have any political clout to speak of and no personal relationship with Mitterrand. His nomination also coincided with the replacement of Pierre Marion as head of the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE, the [Begin Page 134] French foreign intelligence service) with Admiral Pierre Lacoste. By selecting Bonnet and Lacoste, two individuals who did not know one another, Mitterrand tried to ensure that the DST and the DGSE, known for their rivalry, would enjoy a more productive relationship. That did not quite prove to be the case.
Bonnet argues that the DGSE essentially tried to undermine the DST during his tenure by investigating targets on French soil. He also describes at length the DGSE's failures, such as the famous Greenpeace incident in 1985. At the same time, he admits that he "troubled" Admiral Lacoste by increasing the number of arrangements with foreign intelligence agencies from twenty-five to forty-three. He also told a French senatorial commission that his external intelligence came mainly from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the British Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), not from the DGSE. Bonnet has a lot of nice things to say about the CIA, even though he had to expel a CIA officer who was running a Hungarian spy in France without having first informed the DST.
Bonnet soon encountered many other challenges. The staff he inherited was small—about 1,500 employees, including 120 commissaires and 1,200 inspectors—and his budget and equipment were so inadequate that he had to ask the CIA for a silent drilling device so that he could install microphones in the wall of an embassy. The lack of personnel and resources was compounded, Bonnet argues, by the subordination of the DST to the Direction Générale de la Police Nationale (the Directorate General for the National Police), which controlled the career paths and postings of the DST's managers and investigators. Bonnet, however, recognizes the quality of the personnel who worked for him. With them, he produced the results of the DST's most important case ever, Farewell.
Farewell was the codename assigned to Colonel Vladimir Ippolitovich Vetrov of the Soviet State Security Committee (KGB), who in 1980 had offered his services to the DST through Thomson executive Jacques Prévost. Farewell's contribution was exemplary: from 1980 to 1982 he smuggled out 2,997 documents that the Soviet Union stole from the West. Most of these documents were of a technical nature, but they were annotated with the date and place of their acquisition—essential information to find out who was responsible for the compromise. On the basis of Farewell's evidence, President Mitterrand agreed to declare forty-seven Soviet diplomats persona non grata. According to Bonnet, the fate of Farewell/Vetrov—he was arrested in 1982 for murder and executed for treason in January 1983—resulted not from source protection errors committed by the DST, as some alleged, but from Vetrov's own mistakes. The KGB officer had confided in his son that he was collaborating with France; and Vetrov...