• Eyal Pinko

DGSE director-general will testify about Naval Group's Australian failure

On October 6, Bernard Emié, the director-general of France's external intelligence service DGSE, will testify before the Senate of foreign affairs and defense committee about the canceled purchase of 12 Naval Group submarines from Australia. Emié will testify why French intelligence failed to alert the US and Australia about the secret submarine sale.

Naval Group president Pierre-Eric Pommellet and defense minister Florence Parly will testify before the committee probing how France lost the crucial contract on October 12. "How and why did the operation go unnoticed by our diplomatic network and intelligence services?" The committee's chairman, Christian Cambon, inquired publicly a few days ago.

The DGSE, on the other hand, probably will not reveal much. If Emié admitted that the service was actively gathering intelligence on Australia's vital partners, such admission would only serve to prove that the Australian government was correct in rejecting a surveillance agreement.

Despite this, the DGSE worked hard to support the French sale, as it usually does when major contracts are negotiated in a complicated environment. For example, the 2017 competition with Italy in Qatar and the 2007 negotiations for the sale of the Rafale to Morocco, which was also considering the US F-16.

When certain people at the Naval Group and in the French government began to question Australia's intentions, the DGSE deployed an additional officer to Canberra in August, adding to the precautions previously put in place by the service, according to Intelligence Online news website.

Emié was keeping a close eye on developments, dining with Mathias Cormann, now the Secretary-General of the OECD, shortly after the G7 summit in June, when the AUKUS deal between Canberra, London, and Washington was secretly negotiated. When he was Australia's finance minister, Cormann was involved in the negotiations with Naval Group, and he encountered Pommellet about the same time.

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