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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: https://www.humanite.fr/service-dor...

by Audrey Loussouarn


Translated Saturday 4 August 2018, by Hervé Fuyet

Thursday, August 2, 2018
Audrey Loussouarn
In reorganizing the security of the Elysée, Alexandre Benalla was working on a project similar to what other heads of state had set up under the Fifth Republic.

Benalla, heavy-handed gorilla. Benalla, baggage handler. But also: Benalla, expert in reorganization of the security services of the Head of State, as deputy to the chief of staff of Emmanuel Macron. The project, presented by mail to the Presidential staff in July, was well advanced and was due to see the light of day in September.

The idea: that the security group of the Presidency of the Republic (GSPR), composed of almost 80 police officers and gendarmes, be under the sole authority of the Elysée. "This means that the protection of the president could be done outside of any control, observed Frédéric Le Louette, president of Gend XXI, a professional association defending the interests of the gendarmes, in Le Monde. The Elysée would be able to entrust people without any serious training, like Alexandre Benalla, with the direction of operations, without anyone being able to intervene. "Hence the allusions, from the first revelations of the Benalla affair, to a form of "parallel police", in preparation or in progress (in view of the man’s behaviour on the videos), which would be above the police forces.

This is not new. The use of "barbouzes" - secret agents - has already taken place under the Fifth Republic, to varying degrees. The Service d’action civique (SAC), created in 1960, was initially set up to manage the security of meetings of Charles de Gaulle’s party, UNR, before it followed the General to the Elysée. An "association, whose official purpose was to "defend and make known the thought and action" of the head of state, and the unofficial purpose of protecting him from the threat of the OAS, (Secret Army Organization)" according to Jean Garrigues, professor of contemporary history, in an article published on the Huffington Post website. A police service, with several thousand members, which has distinguished itself by many blunders and acts of violence, until the presumed involvement of some individuals in the kidnapping of Mehdi Ben Barka in 1965. The SAC was dissolved in 1982 by François Mitterrand, after the "Auriol massacre", in which the head of the SAC of Marseille, newly arrived in power, was killed with all his family after his friends had suspected him of treason for the benefit of the Left.

The current presidential security system has its roots in those days. François Mitterrand installs the famous GSPR, composed only of gendarmes - the socialist having no confidence in the police. It is already under the sole authority of the Elysée - but it will evolve. Mitterrand thus created his own private police force, headed by Christian Prouteau, founder of the GIGN in 1974. The team, "super-cops" accountable only to the head of state, is known today to have been involved in several cases, from the 1982 arrest of the Irish in Vincennes to telephone tapping of some 1,300 people, journalists, political opponents and even artists. All this in the name of protecting the head of state, including his private life (for nearly thirteen years), at a time when the existence of his daughter, Mazarine, and his cancer are kept secret. The system is organized over a long period of time. This entity seems far from the current security system. However, for Jean Garrigues, the Benalla affair "once again highlights the recurrent abuses of presidential power under the Fifth Republic". The "departure from the road" of the chargé de mission may above all recall these two policies that were passed on one point: they were "covered at the time by the so-called reason of State".

Another parallel is the desire of the Head of State to surround himself with people he trusts. The presence of certain members of the SAC for De Gaulle goes back to the RPF’s security service of the 1940s, from which Alexandre Benalla derived his authority to protect Emmanuel Macron during the presidential campaign. According to historian François Audigier on Slate, the "actions" of Macron demonstrate once again "all the ambiguity and the risks involved in combining the official and militant protection of the president", including sometimes "bordering on hubris", because he "will have benefited for a long time from privileges because of his ambiguous dual status." On Monday, during his hearing before the Senate Inquiry Committee, Lionel Lavergne, head of the GSPR, nevertheless assured that Benalla, who was otherwise empowered to exercise secret defence powers, "had no authority over the GSPR and did not hold any function to protect the President of the Republic", but operated only as "conductor" of presidential trips. This is in contradiction with the statements made yesterday to the investigators, published in Le Monde, by officials prosecuted for having communicated to the mission chief images of the cameras of the police prefecture, installed in Place de la Contrescarpe. Their act, they argue, comes from Benalla’s high position.

"For us, he represented Macron for all security matters," said Commissioner Maxence Creusat at the hearing. Yves Lefebvre (Unit SGP police FO) was more direct on 24 July in front of the senators: "It would seem that within the GSPR, we had a group of personnel outside the police and gendarmerie, thus outside the scope of the sovereign security mission, who were civilians, private individuals. That’s why I use the term barbouzes - that is: secret agents. For him, nothing less than men "employed by Benalla" who had "no authority".

Audrey Loussouarn

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