July 10, 2017
A French spy who infiltrated the environmentalist group Greenpeace and in 1985 helped bomb the organization’s flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, has spoken to the media for the first time. The British-based activist organization had purchased the trawler from the British government in 1977 and used it to carry out maritime research and other operations. In July 1985, the Rainbow Warrior, captained by the American environmental activist Peter Wilcox, was docked at the port of Auckland, New Zealand. It was being prepared to lead a flotilla of vessels to the French Polynesian atoll of Mororoa, in order to try to stop a planned nuclear test by the French military.
But on the night of July 10, 1985, two large explosions nearly split the ship in two, causing it to sink in less than five minutes. One of the Rainbow Warrior’s passengers, the Portuguese photographer Fernando Pereira, drowned after he boarded the sinking ship in order to retrieve his cameras and lenses. Greenpeace blamed the government of France for the attack on the ship, but Paris denied any involvement. It later emerged, however, that the blasts had been caused by two plastic-wrapped explosive devices that had been placed on the exterior of the Rainbow Warrior’s engine room and on its propeller blades. The explosive mechanisms had been placed there by two divers working for the Direction Generale de la Securite Exterieure (DGSE), France’s external intelligence service.
Soon after the incident, two DGSE officers, Alain Mafart and Dominique Prieur, were caught by New Zealand police. The spies had in their possession forged Swiss passports and were posing as a Swiss citizens. They were charged with —among other things— terrorism and homicide, and sentenced to prison after pleading guilty to the charges against them. Their trial made headlines around the world and led to the resignation of France’s Minister of Defense, Charles Hernu. Jean-Luc Kister, another member of the DGSE team who participated in the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior and escaped arrest, eventually issued a public apology to New Zealand.
But a fourth DGSE conspirator, Christine Cabon, who…