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Sarkozy kept close tabs on Strauss-Kahn, says French daily

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2011-05-26

French daily Le Monde has reported that President Nicolas Sarkozy’s beefed-up domestic intelligence team helped him strategically leak incriminating information about Dominique Strauss-Kahn when the Socialist starting rising in the polls.

The French have been known to be indifferent to the private foibles of their politicians.

But that did not keep President Nicolas Sarkozy from keeping close tabs on Dominique Strauss-Kahn and his recent history of sexual misbehaviour, according to French daily newspaper Le Monde.

The newspaper reported on Wednesday that thanks to a newly reinforced internal intelligence agency, the Sarkozy administration is privy to “intimate secrets” of rival politicians. In the case of Strauss-Kahn, Sarkozy’s aides recently alerted the press to the existence of a document they said would be damaging to the Socialist and former IMF chief at a moment when as he was polling strongly and therefore posing a threat to the sitting president’s re-election prospects.

‘We’ve got him where we want him’

The document mentioned in the Le Monde article is a police report -- written before the 2007 presidential election -- which alleged that Strauss-Kahn was found in “a compromising position” in a car in a part of western Paris known as a pick-up spot for prostitutes.

According to the article, Sarkozy’s entourage did not leak the report in 2007, because Strauss-Kahn was not the Socialist candidate facing Sarkozy and was therefore not a direct adversary. But in recent weeks, Strauss-Kahn rose in the polls and was widely portrayed as the Socialist frontunner -- and likely victor in a face-off against Sarkozy. The president’s aides therefore considered leaking the memo to the French press (including Le Monde), the article says, in an effort to curb the threat of a Strauss-Kahn presidential candidacy. The press chose not to publish the memo, deeming it a violation of Strauss-Kahn’s privacy.

Sarkozy’s advisors have long bragged to the press that they’ve “got [Strauss-Kahn] where they want him”, apparently referring to their alleged knowledge of numerous incriminating sexual situations Strauss-Kahn has been involved in.

An extensive intelligence circle

The monitoring of public officials’ private affairs in France was, in the past, done by the Renseignements Généraux, the French police’s domestic intelligence branch. But in 2008, Sarkozy merged the “RG” with France’s counter-espionage and counter-terrorism body to create the Central Directorate of Internal Intelligence, which reports to the Ministry of the Interior (and functions in these matters as the French equivalent of a vice squad).

Sarkozy began bolstering his intelligence circle long before he was president, after his appointment in 2002 as interior minister under former President Jacques Chirac. According to French political scientist Dominique Moisi, all recent French presidents have received private information about political rivals, but Sarkozy’s post as interior minister gave him “even more contacts” and “more direct access to that kind of intelligence”.

“It’s said that if you want to be the next president of France, it’s good to be minister of the interior first, because you get all that kind of information about what’s going on in society,” Moisi said. “Compared to previous presidents, Sarkozy has more people giving him information on rivals, because he kept in touch with people he worked with at the Interior Ministry.”

Le Monde named Bernard Squarcini, who is the head of the Central Directorate of Internal Intelligence, and Paris Police Chief Michel Gaudin as key members of the team that has keeped Sarkozy informed of other politicians’ potentially career-damaging activities.

Moisi explained that however cloaked in secrecy, these procedures are not illegal. “There is a distinction between private life and public life in France,” he said. “But the private life of a public person is public.”

Date created : 2011-05-26

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