PARIS — French officials are regularly attending meetings in the United States’ capital to share information with the Five Eyes intelligence group, reflecting a capability to gather and exchange high-value data, according to French Air Force Col. Cyril, of the French DRM military intelligence agency.
“There was a realization that we have intelligence which counts,” he said at a Monday briefing of a French defense journalists association. Cyril gave only his first name at the request of Air Force Gen. Jean-François Ferlet, head of the DRM.
Those committee meetings consist of the “Five Eyes plus France,” Cyril said, referring to Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the U.S., who are in an allied partnership that routinely exchanges intelligence.
France joined that high-level group about a year ago, reflecting a strengthening of ties between Paris and Washington since 2013-2014, he said.
Paris has an “autonomous capability,” which cuts dependence on allies, he said. That allows a correlation and an exchange of information with allies, particularly the American services.
In contrast to what Cyril described as a tendency for the U.S. to see the world in “black and white,” France identified the various Iraqi militia working with Iran in a bid to destabilize the Syrian government. The U.S. held a mid-December meeting with coalition allies, looking to understand the complex situation on the ground, to which France fielded analysts with three years’ experience of detailed tracking.
In a valley near the Iraq-Syria border, there were elements from Iran, Russia, Syria, Iraq and Arab nations, each with its own agenda, he said.
DRM units work in an open-plan “plateau” office with some 20-strong staff, including specialists in imagery, signals and electronic intelligence.
There are also analysts tracking “open sources,” mainly internet traffic. The latter can lead to DRM tracking an operator using a false avatar identity and working in France rather than abroad.
Cyril is head of the J2 intel unit, part of the office for central planning and conduct of operations. The DRM draws on some 2,500 staff, mainly based at the Creil base, north of Paris.