A former spy is candid about one of the most grueling aspects of his secret job.
Jack Beaumont (not his real name) is a former employee of the Clandestine Operations Division of the French Foreign Secret Service, known as the DGSE.
Speaking to the news.com.au podcast, I have news for youBeaumont explained that his job always required him to have five false identities, and explained how difficult it was to keep them all.
“If it’s an ID that you use to recruit a human resource, and it’s a long-term manipulation, then the ID has to be pretty solid,” Beaumont told podcast host Andrew Bucklow.
That meant that every fake identity had to have a social media presence and a different address.
“Each of those IDs should be dismantled within 24 hours if necessary,” he said. “So you can’t just rent a flat because you leave a trail of payment.
“You have to find a place somewhere in Paris or in the countryside where you have some empty flats and then you’re going to make them yours.
“You’re going to change the name on the mailbox, change the name on the doorbell, and then you’re going to put up some cameras.”
Beaumont said he then had to familiarize himself with the locals in each area so that his false identity would endure if people came to watch.
“The people around this address must know you,” he said. “They need to know that your face belongs to this name because if someone wants to check it, they will come to this address and ask the coffee shop or pharmacy with a picture of you and ask, ‘Do you know this person?’
“So those people need to know you by this fake name and be able to say, ‘Yeah, I know him, he lives around the corner.'”
That meant Beaumont had to take the time to spread his fake backstory.
“You need to spend some time in your fake environment and chat with the coffee shop owner, and make sure they really remember you under this fake ID, which gives them your bull life,” he said.
He said that if any of his false identities were ever compromised, he should immediately create a new one.
“With those five IDs, you can run between 10 and 15 different approaches and missions at the same time,” he said. “And if you burn one, you instantly recreate the fifth one, so you always have five different IDs to go to.”
Beaumont, who worked for the DGSE for more than 10 years before quitting due to the mental toll, also explained the effect the job had on his social life.
“She [DGSE] basically tell you to nominate five friends you can really trust and talk to [about what you do for a living],” he said.
“They do background checks on your friends and then they give you the green light if you don’t want to talk to them.
“But the problem is when you go to your friends and say, ‘This is what I actually do, and ‘The Company’ (DGSE) had to do a background check of your life,” usually it’s not very well taken by those friends.
“Eventually you lose your friends because they think you’ve been lying to them for years and that you’ve done background checks on them and their private lives without permission.”
Beaumont has since left the DGSE and now lives in Australia with his wife and children.
Last year he wrote his debut novel, a fictional spy thriller called The Frenchman which is a bestseller in several countries.