If New Zealand has gained anything at all from the uproar over the suspected participation of French intelligence agents in the sinking of a nuclear-protest ship in a New Zealand harbor, it is the pleasure of seeing the French government squirm. It is just possible, however, that French democracy is getting something better: more control over the shadowy Action Division of the French secret service.
New Zealand authorities have implicated six French intelligence agents in the sinking of the Rainbow Warrior, the flagship of the anti-nuclear Greenpeace movement, which had hoped to disrupt a French nuclear test at Mururoa atoll in the Polynesian islands. A photographer was killed in the explosion, which occurred in Auckland harbor.
Under heavy pressure from the French press, the government of President Francois Mitterrand appointed Bernard Tricot, an adviser to President Charles de Gaulle 20 years ago, to investigate the charges. His report was a classic whitewash.
Yes, Tricot said, the six men and women arrested or sought by the New Zealanders were French agents. And, yes, they were on a surveillance mission that was related to the Rainbow Warrior. But, no, "at the government level, no decision was taken to damage the Rainbow Warrior." And, anyhow, Tricot found it "unlikely" that the French agents were involved in the sinking of the Greenpeace ship.