When in 2011, the Files Commission (Comdos), the Bulgarian institution in charge of the opening of the archives of the country’s State Security (DS), declassified 3,000 documents on terrorist movements, monitored by the communist secret services, no one in France paid attention to two notes. Yet, they evoked a bold rapprochement operation in the 1980’s between the French General Directorate for External Security (DGSE – France’s external intelligence agency – editor’s note) and DS with the goal of “common fight against terrorism”. All under the nose of the French Directorate for Territorial Surveillance (DST – responsible for counterespionage and counterterrorism – editor’s note), whose mission was precisely to deal with such situations…
Although evasive, the two notes revealed some intriguing elements. There was talk of “obstinate attempts” of the DGSE to establish informal contacts with the DS between 1986 and 1989, including through a “French investigating judge” and a suspicious intermediary, described as an “ex-agent who joined the ranks of the enemy”. His name, like that of the magistrate, was deleted – the legislation in force in Bulgaria particularly protected the identity of agents still in the field. However, there were indications that these attempts had failed, because suspicious Bulgarians saw them as foul play and have not responded to the requests, coming from the other side of the Berlin Wall. Requests that were without doubt too premature, too bold… It was like a “spark in the well-controlled process of Thaw in relations during the Cold War,” officials from the Files Commission told us at the time, admitting that they had declassified these two notes just “accidentally”.
Paris, the winter of 2014. Sitting at the bottom of a Parisian cafe, the elderly man, with carefully maintained appearance, eagerly turns over the pages in Cyrillic that we gave him. Nearly thirty years later, Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere – because he is the magistrate mentioned in the notes – discovered the hidden side of this story in which he played a decisive role. Yes, it was him who “got his foot in the door” of the notorious Bulgarian secret services and maneuvered this unlikely rapprochement with the DGSE. According to Judge Bruguiere, it was the Bulgarians who “came in contact through a double agent”. “He told me that the communist regime in Sofia was not going to last much longer. And that the DS was aware of this. They were ready for opening gestures.” But the secrets of the Judge stopped short when talking about the identity of this man. “I will take his name to the grave,” he said before saying goodbye.
Today, the man with the initials D.D. is a meek retiree who lives deep in the Yvelines (department in the Paris region – editor’s note). Light years away from the image of international spy, this short, crafty and easygoing gentleman has been at the heart of the matter of rapprochement with the secret services of communist Bulgaria. He is the famous intermediary. Except that, according to D.D., the idea did not come from him. “Jean-Louis investigated several cases of terror attacks in France, where the terrorists had transited through Bulgaria. It was he who asked me to get in touch with the DS. That’s how we did the unthinkable – to gather around the same table the DGSE and the DS in the very midst of the Cold War,” he said. Under the pretext of ailing health, D.D., who alternates between speaking fluently French, Bulgarian and Russian, politely dismissed the revelation of his secrets… He would not say more. For him too, the omerta of silence, sealed nearly thirty years ago, still seems valid. To the point where we can ask the question if the last page of this story has been written.
To learn more, we had to head back to Sofia. As we expected, the two notes, declassified in 2011, were only the tip of the iceberg. Following their trail back through the maze of the archives, abandoned in panic by the DS, we discovered sixty other documents pertaining to this story. They all bore the top classified seal and seemed to have been consulted for the first time since their archiving. They do not tell the whole story, far from it, but they are the fabric of this precious “flip side” of an operation both unique and worthy of a novel.
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To Be Continued
Alexandre Lévy, especially for Bivol
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