Chief of the French Service deDocumentation et de Contre-Espionnage (SDECE) from 1970 to 1981, de Marenches was a career intelligence officer who had worked in the Resistance as a courier during the German occupation of France, passing messages across the demarcation line. He later fled to Spain and joined the Free French Forces in Morocco and fought in Italy before being assigned to intelligence duties on Gen. Charles de Gaulle’s staff in London.
De Marenches was appointed the SDECE’s chief in 1970 by the newly elected President Georges Pompidou who was wary of the organization’s dubious reputation for involvement in every kind of illegal activity from drug trafficking to political blackmail. De Marenches conducted a purge to eliminate suspected Soviet moles
and promoted professionalism by concentrating resources on the Middle East and Francophone Africa. During the decade he ran “La Piscine,” de Marenches transformed SDECE into an effective collection agency staffed mainly by military personnel assigned from the armed forces. In his retirement de Marenches coauthored The Fourth World War, in which he articulated the threat from Islamic fundamentalism, and an autobiography.