Liberty is a concept long admired, much sought and seldom seen in history. What follows is a protester's dream of well-documented, insidiously
oppressive and malevolent government actions so lengthy, so systematically egregious and widely ingrained as to make our tenured rabble-rousing
propagandists drool at the very prospect. The only fly in the ointment for our now-salivating campus and urban organizers is that these tyrannies are
used in France, by the French government against the French people.
In the United States, we abhor the establishment of anything akin to a secret police and do not tolerate similar actions by other government agencies,
such as the recent case with the Denver police. They had kept files on a number of activists, and when this came to light, a well-earned public
thrashing was their lot ñ and justifiably so.
This is not the case in France ñ nor has it been for the better part of a century.
"Gestapo," the name of the Nazi's secret police, brings forth a flood of visceral responses that engender visions of insidious prying and
remorseless brutality a half century after its passing. But it might surprise you to know that when its agents kicked in the doors in 1940 even the
Gestapo was shocked and appalled at the sheer volume and detail of files kept on French citizens by the French government. And the situation has only
grown worse since the United States liberated the country in 1944. This epidemic of domestic spying was called "unprecedented in a democracy" in a
report published December 1992 in the French publication, Liberation.
Pretty strong words, but let's take a look at the French alphabet soup that provides the circumlocutory disguise for what instructed even the Nazis
in methods of oppression.
The better-known French Secret Service responsible for foreign threats (similar to the CIA) has been called the Direction GÈnÈrale de la SÈcuritÈ
ExtÈriure (DGSE) since 1981 and has a functional counterpart for internal security (similar to the FBI) called the Direction de la Surveillance du
Territoire (DST) reconstituted from its forbearer in 1944.
However there is a little known ñ outside of France ñ third dimension to intelligence and surveillance that engages in a panoply of functions that are
mostly foreign to Americans.
The first among these is the Renseignements GÈnÈraux (RG), which, in addition to its more benign duties, investigates and maintains hundreds of
thousands of dossiers on people at the behest of the police, judiciary or the current political party in power; conducts individual surveillance;
polls to assist the office-holders and candidates of the party in power in a range of political matters; infiltrates opposing political groups and
trade unions; taps phones and opens mail.
In Paris, the RG is assisted by the Renseignements GÈnÈrauxde la PrÈfecture de Paris (RGPP), which reports to and spies at the direction of the
prefect of the city.
The end game of the RG's work is essentially to maintain a France untainted by the messy, democratic pluralism such as found in the United States. To
this end it created and maintains an official classification system based on the racial, ethnic, cultural, religious and political ties of the French
populace. The files maintained contain a noxious level of survey into private lives and are rife with hearsay and malicious denunciations.
Phone tapping and the interception and reading of mail is so routine that exceptions to the rubber-stamp approval process are notable chiefly by their
scarcity. Indeed, the RG maintains a structure dedicated to domestic electronic intercepts in the Caserne de Latour-Maubourg that is supported, not
only by a series of regional phone tapping offices, but by a group of dedicated motorcycle couriers to carry the transcripts to the requestors.
The real kicker is that this literal mountain of personal dossiers is frequently made available (for a discreet price, as this is France after all) to
individuals and businesses. A major French police union has called it a "vÈritable pillage," and no, this comment needs no translation.
In a France beset with an ever-rising rate of unemployment, a blighted economic capacity with no hope in sight, it is no wonder that such a system is
required to keep the populace in check.
All in all, the virulent anti-American rhetoric is but another layer of smoke and mirrors all too necessary to keep the very carefully watched and
managed citizens of France in line and distracted from the growing government-created cesspool they must learn to survive in.
Imagine now if that were us. La vie longue la diffÈrences! ("Long live the differences!")