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No BlackBerries for Sarkozy cabinet, say French spooks

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French ministers and other government bigwigs (perruques-grands?) will no longer be allowed to use BlackBerries, in sharp contrast to British MPs.

The French ban, however, is a matter of security rather than one of politeness or the dignity of government. The servers which BlackBerries rely on are located outside France, in the UK and America.

The Secretariat Général de la Défense Nationale (SGDN), the French security agency, says the BlackBerry is "a problem of data security." The French Cabinet and staffs have been barred from using the popular handheld.

The Financial Times says the French foreign service got rid of its BlackBerries some time ago, but that other ministries had ignored guidance and were still using them.

French paper Le Monde reportedly was quite explicit regarding who might be seeking to spy on the secrets of France, pointing the finger firmly at the USA's National Security Agency interception spookshop. There was no mention of the UK's Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, aka MI6) or Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ), but one can be sure they too have figured in the SGDN's decision.

Apparently, the French civil servant in charge of economic intelligence, Alain Juillet, is a strong BlackBerry basher: and the French oil operation, Total, has never had any truck with Anglo-Saxon hosted push email. SIS is known to have a close relationship with British-based multinationals like British Petroleum - exiled Brit spook Richard Tomlinson says BP actually has an SIS liaison officer on staff who provides secret intel to the company.

Total would surely be very foolish to send its email via servers in the UK with this sort of system in place. In many ways, it's a wonder the French government didn't act long ago.

More from the Financial Times here. ®

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