Thursday, April 14, 2005

Today's Way of War: The Market in Abidjan

TYR has covered several stories from the Ivory Coast's conflict, really because it seems to me that it's a kind of war that marks out our times. Remember the Ivorian air force and its drones and complete Israeli-run phonetapping centre? After the Ivorian leadership relaunched their war with an airstrike on inconvenient French peacekeepers (flown by Belarussian and Ukrainian pilots in Soviet aircraft, using recce photos taken from an Israeli-made drone), the French intervened dramatically in the capital. They marched up to the gates of the presidential palace, parking tanks around the door, and destroyed the complete air force except for the president's helicopter. (Does everyone get that subtle signal there?) They took over the best hotel in town, the Hotel Ivoire, where they discovered the Israelis and their gear.

It seems, according to this Le Monde report, that someone among the French staff officers in the Ivoire left either a laptop, or a data storage device of some kind, behind. In the market of Abidjan, you can buy CD-Roms containing what appears to be a French intelligence dossier on everything in the country - highly confidential biographies and profiles of the whole political class, details of the French intelligence services' network in the country, the complete government and rebel order of battle. In short, WANT! WANT! WANT!

If anyone sends me the data, by the way, I'll put it on the net for common usage. Open source spying - you can't say fairer than that.

There are, of course, important questions. The French army was well in control of the city when they quit the Hotel Ivoire. If Chirac had given the word, they were in a position to drag President Gbagbo to a chopper and off to the Hague, or wherever. So surely, they would not have been in such a hurry that they would have given away names of their intelligence network? Wouldn't they have checked? After all, France has had such excellent postcolonial/neocolonial ties there that there must be a lot of spies. The suspicion exists that this dossier was leaked deliberately.

And - CDs of foreign intel data on sale for six euros a go on the streets! Damn, it's interesting.

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