Tarnac: Illegally Installed Ears

Discovered in the grocery of the group by an agent of France Telecom in March 2008, an illegal listening device installed by the police threatens the consistency of the investigation.

In the investigation into the sabotage of the high-speed train lines, it is a new shadowy zone. The shadow of manipulation, even. Several wiretaps of the telephones of the young people in Tarnac have been, since March 2008, hidden from justice until today. The police forces haven’t said everything there is to say and this opacity, not at all permitted in a legal case, could become one of the crushing arguments from the defense, which addressed to the judge a new Request for Investigative Measures on Monday.

As Le Canard enchaîné has indicated, one of these eavesdropping devices was unintentionally revealed to a co-manager of the grocery store in Tarnac (Corrèze) in April 2008 by an agent of France Telecom. The agent was penalized. Ever since then, the management of France Telecom has retreated into silence. And for good reason. This eavesdropping had been effectuated outside the perimeter of the legal investigation that was opened after the sabotage of the TGV lines in November 2008 and even before the opening of the preliminary inquest on 11 April 2008.

"Beyond the fact that it lends credence to the presumptions about the orchestrated, premeditated and thus political character of the case,” said William Bourdon, attorney for the defense, “the existence of clandestine wiretapping prior to the proceeding [that authorizes it] is sanctioned in a constant manner by jurisprudence.” For example, in the 1990s, illicit eavesdropping caused the complete annulment of the “Schuller-Maréchal” case against the father-in-law of Judge Halphen.

"Connection." For the moment, only the witnesses can confirm the existence and then the removal of the devices in Tarnac. Located by Libération, Francis M., a technician, followed the case in his capacity as an employee of France Telecom. “The line functioned, but the device caused a weakening of the signal and a problem with the bankcard machine,” he explained. The agent cut out the diversion and re-established the line. Then he called the head of the department who himself alerted the national [police] service that took care of eavesdropping. He [the agent] did so because he’d entered the central switching station with the client. This is what he was reproached for, later on. They sent someone to the target without knowing what was what.”

The bankcard machine at the grocery broke down in mid-March 2008. Banking statements were longer transmitted. One of the co-managers of the store changed the unit, in vain. On the morning of 4 April 2008, he tested the new machine with the agent from France Telecom and then accompanied him to the local switching station.

Questioned by Libération, the grocer recalls, “From what he found in front of the board, he said, ‘OK, there is a connection and it isn’t ours.’ ” The two men ascertained that, while the white and red wires were connected on every other line, there was “a blue wire and a yellow one” that ran from the grocer's line, in parallel, to a plastic casing. “It’s the police, right?” said the grocer. “Could well be,” responded the technician, who called his superior. “He spoke, repeating certain responses from his boss, and then he said: ‘Alright, so there are three numbers being tapped in Tarnac?’ He asked if he could disconnect it and he said in a loud voice, ‘I disconnect it, like this!’” The bankcard machine started working again.

"The devices were installed every day," the union-member [of France Telecom] continued. “No one knew the who or the why of it. It was one of my colleagues who installed the devices. He did so regularly via work orders. But the agent who intervened didn’t know the history. Several lines were affected. And the store’s line wasn’t the only one affected.” For the agent, the problems came rapidly. “In the hour that followed, the orders piled up. The regional director summoned the person who had questioned the device, the person who removed it, and the head of the department. Patrick Coat, the Regional Director, left for Paris the next day.” The “guilty” agent was reprimanded and suspended for 15 days. For his part, Patrick Coat was summoned by the Minister of the Interior.

The wiretapping at Tarnac was set in motion by the ad hoc service of France Telecom, located in Montrouge (Hauts-de-Seine), which receives requests for judicial and administrative wiretaps.

The lawyers for the Tarnac group have requested from the telecommunications company “the history of the technical interventions on the lines” of the grocery for the year 2008. It responded that “2008 data” for this number is “no longer consultable.” On 2 February [2010], the lawyers appeared before the Commission for Access to Administrative Documents. This week they will interrogate the National Commission for the Supervision of Security Interceptions, which regularly reviews the “administrative” wiretaps executed by the Inter-Ministry Grouping for Supervision at the request of the special services.

Maneuver. The interruption of the eavesdropping of Tarnac on 4 April 2008 provoked the precipitous opening of a preliminary investigation of Julien Coupat and his friends. On 11 April, the anti-terrorist police (the SDAT) wrote to the Attorney General of the Republic to reveal to him the existence of a “clandestine structure” making use of “several logistical bases,” notably in Tarnac. Without speaking of the wiretaps, the SDAT evoked “intelligence” emanating from the Central Directorate of General Intelligence (DCRG). One could deduce from this that the current Central Directorate of Internal Intelligence (the DCRI, a fusion of the Directorate for the Security of the Territory and the DCRG) was in on it, as Bernard Squarcini, its director, has admitted. “The DCRI had been surveilling these individuals for a long time,” he said in Point, March 2009.

In August 2008, four months after the removal of the secret devices, the number of the grocery in Tarnac was the target of an official demand for a wiretap. Authorized by a judge, this wiretap would be extended three times until November 2008. But it never yielded any information about the “violent actions” that were attributed to the Tarnac group.

(Written by Karl Laske and published in Libération on 25 February 2010. Translated by NOT BORED! on 28 February 2010.)

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