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Computer Geeks, Linguists - And Not James Bonds, Sought By French Spy Service

Computer Geeks, Linguists - And Not James Bonds, Sought By French Spy Service
France's foreign intelligence service is also looking for computer wizards and linguists not would-be James Bonds even as it is bolstering recruitment to counter Islamist militants and cyber criminals.
Posts for young information technology gurus and linguists who master the finer points of Russian, Chinese or Farsi, widely used in Iran and Afghanistan, are at the top of the vacancy list at France's DGSE, the equivalent of America's CIA or Britain's MI6.
Recruitment pressures are changing things, said head of administration of the foreign spy service even while publicity is not usually a priority of the foreign spy service (the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure, or DGSE).
"All kinds of telecoms and IT profiles interest us, from crypto-mathematicians to super geeks," Charles Moreau, head of DGSE administration, told Reuters during an interview at the agency's northeastern Paris headquarters - nicknamed "La Piscine" (The Pool).
The skills among prospective recruits that are required are not those of amphibious frogmen or secret agents of the kind incarnated by the fictional British character James Bond even as the DGSE hiring target is 500-600 recruits a year to bring its numbers up to 7,100 by 2019.
Moreau, whose remit covers oversight of hiring, said that an increasingly open and competitive marketplace where it has to vie with big industrial groups, start-ups and other top-end recruiters to attract high-fliers, is the place where today, the foreign spy service is recruiting in.
However, this phenomenon among spy agencies nothing new, the focus on young communications and technology wizards, the super geeks Moreau spoke of.
U.S. intelligence services stood accused of having expanded internet surveillance at the expense of old-fashioned feet-on-the-ground spies at the time when militants flew planes into the New York World Trade Centre in 2001. That incident had prompted the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in pursuit of al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
However, fears that assailants motivated by money or ideology could cripple even more strategic targets such as power and water networks, have been increased by the recent cyber attacks that disrupted business operations and hospital services in many countries across the world.
Moreau said that gone are the days when it used to be behind-the-scenes affair and these days, scouting for new-era intelligence services personnel is an affair where recruiters scout for talent just like the rest.
"We can no longer sit on our hands and wait for them to come to us, it's an intensely competitive marketplace," he said.
In recent years, Russia and China are the two countries whose increasingly central role has shaken up an old world order dominated by U.S. military might and one difficulty was finding language experts, notably with mastery of Russian and Chinese, the languages of those two countries.
Apart from those two language, niche language skills are also required because of France's military intervention abroad, against the Islamic State militant group in the Middle East.
"It wasn't easy with Arabic and Farsi but it's another ball game with dialects like Tamachek (spoken by the Tuareg tribe in Mali and other parts of Africa)," said Moreau.

Christopher J. Mitchell

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