Leaving the "regular" army for the DGSE, Olivier Mas, who has just published Spy Profession (Hoëbeke), recounts having abandoned the classic uniform of the military in civilian clothes (we are talking about the army, and probably more particularly the cavalry officer): beige pants, paraboots, plaid shirt, Barbour jacket and cheich scarf. You know, this uniform that is found in stations on weekends, Montparnasse in particular, direction Rennes (Coëtquidan) then Vannes and Poitiers, or in the evening on commuter trains, since the officer assigned to Paris at his defending body prefers to live in the western suburbs. Or in the processions of the Manif pour tous. Not too much of a cup of tea, writes Olivier Mas, alias "Beryl 614", who willingly defines himself as a non-conformist. Arriving at the beginning of the 2000s at the barracks on boulevard Mortier, in the XXth arrondissement, headquarters of the DGSE, he easily put on the dark suit and the tie, more discreet and, let's say it, more elegant.
But the army marks a man. And at the start of this dizzying afternoon at the end of December, it's pretty quiet that we approach, in front of the cafe where we are meeting wearing Maillot, this man with athletic build, tweed jacket green, blue striped shirt and beige pants. To be honest, he had just texted to report that he had just arrived. The now retired still has an Armani glasses frame, which does not look very saint-cyrien.
A small table away? He doesn't care a bit. "I would have been in my former position, I would have said yes, but there …" It's well worth interviewing a former spy, well, while the least railroad unionist at least claims anonymity, secrecy, no registration and is on the verge of searching you entrance to a deserted hangar to see if you won't betray it. We were made journalist to play Bob Woodward, result today the guys of the secret services have Youtube channels like Squeezy and order a Perrier pepouse in front of the picture window. Very nice guy too. We would have liked distance, height, silences heard. What slab.
"The patriotic dimension is essential"
Olivier Mas left the DGSE and the Army in 2017, after twenty-eight years of career. As he enjoys video and editing, and telling stories, he launched "Talk with a spy", 92,000 subscribers today. The media took an interest, intelligence specialists first, and then generalists. The idea for the book came from this interest, from a growing appetite in the cinema and in series for the French intelligence universe, with of course the inevitable "Bureau des Légendes". Of a com ’plan and recruitment on the part of the DGSE also, which seeks to attract candidates in these troubled times? "I am not one of them" assures Captain Olivier Mas, who is more surely a colonel, since he did Saint-Cyr and is a graduate of the Ecole de Guerre, and whose name is obviously not Olivier Mas. "I launched my channel without asking for anything, but I do not reveal any secrets or techniques that could endanger the safety of the DGSE and its agents. As for the book, it has been reread, and some cases have been deleted or modified, for the same reasons. "
Spy profession is an amazing dive into the daily life of an analyst and then a treating officer of the DGSE. A surprising testimony by his sincerity. Olivier Mas does not hide anything from his doubts, his stress, his marital problems too, the social isolation which inevitably brings about this extraordinary profession which we can not talk to those around him, his enthusiasm for a subject intellectually fascinating, but which has the enormous advantage of being meaningful: "Of course, you miss a part of your life, but like all choices, it involves concessions. The patriotic dimension is essential. We act to serve our country and protect our fellow citizens. " At the headquarters, boulevard Mortier, the stress increases when it comes to producing a note before an important meeting, refused twenty minutes before high mass, and the intense effort, crowned with success, so that the sector manager finally use it before the laying of the DGSE. The daily game of the canteen: who has lunch with whom, who is alone, who is at the top and who is in disgrace? In the field abroad, meetings with the sources, reconnaissance of routes, the danger always present and betrayal always possible.
Olivier Mas says he has always been passionate about the spy profession. Coming from a military family, his father, who was assigned to Lebanon for a time, was one of General Rondeau's best friends, a legend in French intelligence. Cradled by necessarily incomplete stories, the young boy turns to a military career, then joins the 1ER RPIMA (Parachute Regiment of Marine Infantry), the Special Forces 'Land' entity. His next assignment, in a tank regiment in Verdun, amuses him much less. He applied for the DGSE, was selected and began a long selection and training process before dealing with counter-terrorism, particularly in the Iraqi region, before becoming a treating officer in Beirut.
Well, actually, that’s not exactly how it happened. Not these places. Central Asia and central Europe too. Perhaps. We talk about the Chinese and the Russians, too. Necessarily. Not in that order. Or not exactly. It tells of other places, other missions, other issues, with a sometimes disarming frankness. And sometimes even a touch of naivety. So potentially, it’s not impossible that he’s really walking around. Let this frank guy, raw formwork and end at the same time, have fun with us. And if her stress was bogus. Or not. His chain, a decoy. His marital problems, an invention. It's his job, right?
*Spy profession, Hoëbeke editions, 202 pages, 16.50 euros