Sunday, August 1, 2010


The savagery of the Algerian anticolonial war for self-government, with atrocities committed by both sides between the start of the uprising in November 1954 and independence from France in July 1962, set a  standard for the French intelligence establishment, with the government in Paris disavowing operations conducted by military personnel assigned to its intelligence agency, Service de Documentation Extérieure et de Contre-Espionage (SDECE).
The ruthless campaign conducted by the  barbouzes (literally, “the bearded ones”) enabled the French to fight  an ultimately unsuccessful rearguard action against the guerrillas and leave a legacy of anger at the tactics  employed by the French military. Later President Charles de Gaulle found it expedient to deploy the SDECE  against his opponents in the Organisation de l’Armée Secrète who believed he had betrayed the French  settlers in Algeria after having publicly committed himself to supporting their interests.
In December 1991 the suppression of a democratically elected Islamic administration led to a bloody civil war that went largely unreported because Islamic extremists targeted members of the media and made the country unsafe for journalists and independent correspondents. The conflict was extended by the principal Algerian  terrorist group, the Groupement Islamique Armé (GIA), to Paris in an attempt to exert influence over French  support for the Algerian government.