François Hollande’s personal protection is deeply “flawed”, top security sources have warned, claiming that one of the French president’s bodyguards is an alcoholic, another has psychological problems and a third fired a mystery gun shot in the Elysée lavatories.
Despite being one of the leaders most under threat in the world and in French modern history, “the president’s security is not assured,” senior security sources from within Mr Hollande’s presidential security service, GSPR, have claimed.
The agents said the presidents’ guards are physically unfit and such bad shots that they are too embarrassed even to go to the practice range for fear of “showing how cr** they are”.
“If tomorrow a gun goes off in the street, they won’t be able to respond appropriately,” one told Le Monde.
According to the French daily, last month a bullet from a Glock pistol belonging to a guard was fired in the Elysée rest room, and lodged itself in the wall. The incident was, the sources said, discreetly hushed up, and neither the Elysée’s military command nor, apparently, the president himself informed at the time.
The Elysée now has said the shot was fired after a clumsy police bodyguard dropped his weapon, which went off when he tried to catch it “whereas he should have let it go”.
Francois Hollande is flanked mt protection offices early this month in Paris
The Le Monde sources claimed the agent in question was known to be “trigger happy” and a notoriously bad shot – underlining a worrying lack of professionalism, they said. Despite the “shameful” incident, no one has been sanctioned.
Other evidence of amateurism is the alleged presence of one guard known to be a heavy drinker and another with “psychological problems” that saw him at one point sidelined and his gun confiscated.
He has since returned to duty “by the president’s side, despite the fact that he is psychologically very fragile and even has to leave the unit now and then because he can’t cope with the stress”, said one source.
Despite these problems, neither has been sent for a medical check-up.
Sophie Hatt, head of the GSPR insisted that since his election, “the president’s security has always been assured in a satisfactory manner”, saying they were constantly tested and trained. Her entourage point to gripes by “macho” individuals reluctant to take orders from a female boss.
But Le Monde said the whistleblowing goes beyond the usual back-stabbing rivalry between gendarmes and police who make up the GSPR, as its sources include agents from both services. “Our aim is to approach zero risk. As things stand, we haven’t put everything in place for that to be the case,” one warned.
The sources pointed to the decision to allow Mr Hollande to visit Charlie Hebdo’s offices minutes after the Islamist attack that left 12 deadwithout checking for booby-trapped vehicles. “They didn’t even bring along a sniffer dog. We took the president to a suicidal area,” said one agent.
A protection officer opens a car door for the French President
He pointed out the use of private chauffeurs not trained to drive fast in case of terrorist attacks and the decision to “lighten” the security set-up around the president in place since the January Paris attacks.
However, the main cause for security lapses is Mr Hollande himself, the sources claimed, as his desire to continue leading a “normal” life – such as sneaking out of the presidential palace incognito for secret trysts with Julie Gayet, his actress girlfriend – is making their life hell.
When Closer, glossy weekly released snaps of Mr Hollande in the street with a moped helmet and a bodyguard holding his croissants, the Elysée insisted his security was at all times assured. “That’s false. It would have been very easy to take him,” one security agent told Le Monde. “It was a camera but if it had been a gun, it would have been the same.”
He added: “(Jacques) Chirac wasn’t easy, but with Hollande it’s a shambles.”