July 10, 2017

Anniversary, Sinking Rainbow Warrior, Australia and a French Submarine

Joseph Fitsanakis for Intelnews, July 10, 2017, has authored an article marking the 32nd anniversary of an act of state terrorism (terrorism by a state). This was when French spies blew up a Greenpeace ship in the main harbour of a democratic, Western country, in 1985.


"French spy who infiltrated the environmentalist group Greenpeace and in 1985 helped bomb the organization’s flagship, the Rainbow Warrior [a bomb that sunk Rainbow Warrior and killed Dutch photographer, Fernando Pereira], has spoken to the media for the first time..."


Further details to the bizarre Sink Rainbow Warrior Operation involved Australia and a French nuclear submarine.

Three other DGSE agents providing support for the Operation (Chief Petty Officer Roland Verge, Petty Officer Bartelo and Petty Officer Gérard Andries) sailed to New Zealand on the yacht Ouvéa.

Those three were arrested by Australian police on Norfolk Island, an Australian possession located between Australia and New Zealand. Not wanting to draw French anger Australia quickly decided to release the three French agents.

A few days after their release the three agents were picked up by the French nuclear propelled attack submarine Rubis. Rubis had sailed half way round the world from France specifically to be available as an extraction asset for the Sink Rainbow Warrior Operation.

It is odd, but familiar, how deluded military based intelligence agencies, like DGSE, can get. The delusion is apparent in the last paragraph of the Intelnews article when the female French agent, Christine Cabon, rationalised why it was OK with her to bomb a peaceful Western country. She says the “job was what it was”, and [she] noted that “all military people, who serve their country, often find themselves in situations that they have not wished for”. Basically she's claiming she was just following orders - a defense used and discredited at Nuremberg.  

The small trawler sized ship Rainbow Warrior (photo courtesy Greenpeace) was sunk in Auckland Harbour, New Zealand, in 1985, by a timebomb smuggled into New Zealand by France's external intelligence agency DGSE. An unsubtle piece of state-based terrorism which left this hole in the hull (below) - sinking the ship and killing Dutch photographer, Fernando Pereira.



Anonymous said...

What did France gain militarily and politically in this sordid offensive action against a Western ally (after all Aussies have fought and died for France's independence on French soil)? None that I can think of for all those French taxpayers' francs spent.

Peter Coates said...


Rainbow Warrior was the lead boat in anti-nuclear environmental/peace protests against French nuclear weapon tests at Moruroa Atoll in the South Pacific https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moruroa#French_nuclear_weapons_testing .

Militarily and politically French intelligence wanted to disable and deter the protests thereby allowing the tests to continue without interruption. So French intelligence concocted the bizarre scheme [1] to blow up the Rainbow Warrior.

DGSE hoped that New Zealand would see no French connection, that DGSE wouldn't get caught. But DGSE made too many operational security errors leading to arrests of French agents on New Zealand soil.

[1] French DGSE and the French Defence Minister gave the scheme the ominous name Opération Satanique (Operation Satanic) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinking_of_the_Rainbow_Warrior .

Once caught France admitted blame and paid substantial compensation to New Zealand and Greenpeace.



Ztev Konrad said...

This background story to the political dimensions indicates the French werent about to readily admit blame at all.
It took 2 months !

""When we initially said we knew all about the bombers, they just laughed," he [Hensley, the head of the PM's dept]recalls. "It was only when we produced the file that they realised just what detail we had of the agents' movements. They acknowledged their secret service had been in New Zealand. They started talking to us on more realistic terms."
It would still be two months before that realism, assisted by leaks to the French media, would win over attempted whitewash and finally bring a humiliating admission from the Fabius government that the DGSE, the French secret service, had placed the explosives that sank the Rainbow Warrior.

The French government used all its available resources to secure the early release of the 2 agents tried and convicted of manslaughter.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Ztev

All true. The relative weakness of NZ led it to cave in.

From the good Wiki https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinking_of_the_Rainbow_Warrior#France_implicated :

"Most of the agents of the French team escaped from New Zealand but two, Captain Dominique Prieur and Commander Alain Mafart were identified as possible suspects. Posing as the married couple...Prieur and Mafart were identified with the help of a Neighbourhood Watch group, and arrested.

[These 2 captured agents] "pleaded guilty to manslaughter and were sentenced to 10 years imprisonment on 22 November 1985. France threatened an economic embargo of New Zealand's exports to the European Economic Community if the pair were not released.[9] Such an action would have crippled the New Zealand economy, which was dependent on agricultural exports [especially dairy products] to the United Kingdom."

Summarised from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinking_of_the_Rainbow_Warrior#Foreign_relations :

In a June 1986 deal with NZ PM David Lange, France agreed to pay US$6.5 million to NZ and apologise.

In return the 2 convicted for manslaughter agents were "detained" in what turned out to be tropical island luxury on France's Hao Atoll for notionally 3 years. However, the 2 agents had both returned to France by May 1988, after less than 2 years.

The male agent was promoted to colonel. The female agent returned to France on 6 May 1988 because she was pregnant, her husband having been allowed to join her on the luxury atoll. She, too, was freed and later promoted.