secret agents reveal behind the scenes of the DGSE in a new documentary


Video length: 3 min

The cover of agents of a clandestine unit of the DGSE

A new documentary plunged into the heart of the DGSE and was able to collect the words of intelligence agents.


France 2 broadcasts a documentary on Tuesday evening on the functioning of France’s Directorate General of External Security.

“The DGSE is a company made up of ordinary people to carry out extraordinary missions, with exceptional resources.” This is how Bernard Emié, former director general of external security, describes this organization which he led from 2017 to January 2024. Popularized by the television series The Legends Office, this structure is responsible for carrying out clandestine operations outside French territory in order to protect the interests of the nation.

The documentary DGSE: the factory of secret agentssigned Théo Ivanez and Jean-Christophe Notin, who had devoted a book to this subject, is broadcast Tuesday April 9 at 9:10 p.m. on France 2. For the first time, this temple of secrecy allowed a television crew to enter for several weeks. The film draws up a range of the different activities of the DGSE and gives theword to many active agents. Emerging from the silence that their activity gives them, they explainunder cover of anonymity, their recruitment, their motivations, their functions and the difficulty, sometimes, of carrying out two activities at the same time.

“The DGSE is a service which also acts clandestinely”, reveals Bernard Emié in the documentary. This means that we must invent existences, legends, a past, a profession for our agents. All this is a construction, which I would describe as clandestine goldwork.” The research and operations department is the most secret and compartmentalized unit of the institution. He operates abroad, goes “where others cannot go” and uses agents whose lives need to be shaped and rewritten: captions and covers are then developed in order to preserve the security and room for maneuver of spies.

The divided lives of intelligence agents

Mélonoé became an agent of this clandestine unit, almost in spite of herself. A researcher by training, she was recruited at the end of a conference. “A good manipulator found the right words to interest me. And in fact, it was easy because it’s so extraordinary,” she explains in the documentary. She quickly joined this ultra-secret service of the DGSE, without ever setting foot in the service’s headquarters. “Even people within the company say ‘what is this little unit?’ (…) There is indeed a sort of black box within the black box”, says Mélonoé in the film. After taking on a new identity, she created a company, with real statutes, real offices and real clients.

“The clandestine, what interests us, is what he is today. But the job he does today will only be a cover. His real job will be clandestine for the DGSE.

Franck, human intelligence expert

In the documentary “DGSE: the factory of secret agents”

The company, created from scratch and with a perfectly legal existence, is used to infiltrate certain countries and approach specific people. Employees are not informed that the real purpose of their company is to collect information.

A documentary gives the floor for the first time to DGSE intelligence agents.

The difficulties of keeping spies underground

A documentary gives the floor for the first time to DGSE intelligence agents.


“What ensures the safety of the assembly is the fact that absolutely no one knows that all of this is a structure ex nihilo”, explains Mélonoé, who also addresses the difficulty of managing two distinct functions.

“We really have two jobs. That is to say, our life is shared between this coverage structure, where we have to do our accounting, and the whole other part, where we work with the analysts (…) on understanding what the company’s needs are, who we should target(…) It’s intellectually heavy.”

Mélonoé, agent of the clandestine unit

In the documentary “DGSE: the factory of secret agents”

But, beyond these difficulties in juggling cover and initial mission, new technologies can jeopardize the identity of these clandestine agents. “One of the Achilles heels is biometrics. If we recruit an individual who has been to certain countries and who has left traces in biometrics as a real identity, we cannot send him back as a fictitious identity,” underlines Franck, expert in human intelligence. This calls into question and into perspective the very personality of the agents, their recruitment and the precise needs of the DGSE. “Carrying out operational actions in normal life is the future of intelligence, says Alexandre, director and former head of counterterrorism. It is to be banal, it is not to be secret (…) And therefore, it is to have a digital, physical behavior which is banal, which is that of the coverage that you have. ”

The documentary DGSE: the factory of secret agents, directed by Jean-Christophe Notin and Théo Ivanez, is broadcast on Tuesday April 9 at 9:10 p.m. on France 2 and on the platform.

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