Russia7 December 2007
Investigative journalist spends two days being interrogated and pressured at intelligence agency’s headquarters
Guillaume Dasquié is free again. A journalist who specializes in defence and intelligence issues, Dasquié was able to go back home to his family late yesterday after two days in police custody of a very unusual kind. But he will never be able to forget all the hours he spent at the headquarters of the Directorate for Territorial Surveillance (DST), an intelligence agency, during which he was threatened with being placed in pretrial custody.
“The use of psychological pressure and arrest to force journalists to reveal their sources is outrageous,” Reporters Without Borders said. “As Dasquié rightly points out, this violates article 109 of the code of criminal procedure, which says journalists have the right to remain silent when asked about the sources of their information. Such practices are shocking. Journalists are not responsible for government leaks and should not be treated as criminals.”
Co-founder and editor of the political news website Géopolitique.com, Dasquié talked to Reporters Without Borders about his experience.
Six DST inspectors arrived unannounced at Dasquié’s Paris home at around 8 a.m. on 5 December and proceeded to search it. The search went on for five hours. From the start, he was regarded as being in police custody, which under French law cannot last more than 48 hours. He was taken to DST headquarters at midday, at which point a race against time began for the DST to get Dasquié to reveal his sources before they were legally obliged to take him before a judge.
Question after question was fired at him at DST headquarters. Dasquié quickly realised they were after one thing - his source for the confidential documents published in an article in the daily Le Monde on 17 April and in an article in June on the Géopolitique.com website that was headlined: “The DGSE memo on Osama Bin Laden’s resources.” DGSE stands for General Directorate for External Security. It is France’s CIA equivalent.
Standard police custody procedures were not followed for long. Dasquié told Reporters Without Borders that deputy state prosecutor Alexandre Plantevin went to the DST headquarters to talk with him in private. Dasquié had not caved in, but they thought he was bluffing so it was time to increase the pressure one more notch. On the second day, the DST’s deputy director, Gilles Gray, took charge of interrogating the recalcitrant journalist.
Dasquié was threatened with being placed in pretrial detention if he did not reveal his main sources. But he resisted, and his interrogators continued to be in the dark about his source’s identity. At 4 p.m. on the second day, the pace was stepped up again. An unprecedented conference call was arranged. In Dasquié’s presence, Gray called the deputy state prosecutor, who confirmed to him the deal he was being offered - either he revealed the names or be would be placed in pretrial detention.
“The aim of all these interviews was to sidestep article 109 of the code of criminal procedure, in return for which they would release me,” Dasquié told Reporters Without Borders. “But I managed to protect my main source. His name did not emerge.”
On the evening of the second day, Dasquié was finally taken before a judge who notified him of the charges being brought against him and of the fact that he was being placed “under judicial control.” He was then released, pending a summons to appear before the anti-terrorism judge who has been put in charge of the judicial investigation.
Meanwhile, he has been banned from having any contact with members of the DGSE. This seriously limits his ability to continue working as a journalist specialising in intelligence issues.