Last Friday, two former officers of the French foreign intelligence service (CIA equivalent) were sentenced to long prison terms for spying for China. Their treachery convictions illustrate China’s growing success in recruiting human intelligence.
Within the Directorate General of External Security, these convictions will be considered extremely painful. The two officers were respected employees, including a former senior DGSE officer or chief of post in Beijing. This officer, named only “Henri M.”, was reportedly recalled from Beijing to Paris in 1998 after having had an affair with the Chinese interpreter of the ambassador at the time. Henri returned to China after his retirement, marrying the interpreter and moving to Hainan.
Interestingly, the two police officers were arrested at the same time in December 2017 after their retirement. News of their detention was first reported by Daily in May 2018.
The world reports that one of the men, “Pierre Marie H.”, was arrested on arrival in Switzerland with a bag full of money after meeting a Chinese intelligence officer on an unidentified island in the Indian Ocean. In particular, the wife of Pierre Marie H. was also sentenced for supporting his espionage. It is not clear how the DGSE discovered the betrayal, but given the strict guard that the Chinese would keep these French sources, the detection was probably due to the DGSE’s recruitment of their own high-level Chinese intelligence source or, more likely, at the front desk in the United States. intelligence. I make this last suggestion because the CIA and the NSA are the only two Allied intelligence services with the capacity to monitor Chinese intelligence operations active on a global scale.
But the two men obviously gave China valuable information. If they had not done so, the French government would probably not have complained, preferring instead to sweep this huge scandal under the carpet. The tradition of French intelligence is an extreme aversion to public scrutiny. This includes parliamentary scrutiny, which the DGSE has a tendency to openly flout. The DGSE’s willingness to admit this failure and to deal with it so publicly therefore deserves special credit.
That said, it is an awakening, and not only for the French. Intelligence units of the Chinese Ministry of State Security and the People’s Liberation Army have spent the past decade making steady progress in penetrating Western democratic institutions such as the European Union and high-tech institutions in the United States. -United. These campaigns reflect the truly massive scale of Chinese recruitment of foreign intelligence.
While Chinese intelligence was once largely dependent on Russian guidance and its vast internal counterintelligence apparatus to function, its embassies now host large, ambitious and capable intelligence stations. China is convinced that it can use these stations and its unmatched number of unofficial coverage officers (spies acting outside diplomatic coverage) to recruit many “Henri M.” in the future.
Beijing has also benefited from European desperation for Chinese investment and American distraction. Relying on politicians unwilling to make a fuss, Chinese embassy offices have carried out very aggressive operations which would otherwise see their officers expelled much more frequently. Industrial cybervoltage of access to telecommunications and information networks on an industrial scale is of crucial importance. These activities, according to Beijing, will allow it to identify and recruit officials likely to be victims of corruption or blackmail.
In short, it could be DGSE’s turn to be blushing today, but other Western intelligence services will certainly experience their own moments in the future.