President Sarkozy believes the agency was misused by Jacques Chirac
French President Nicolas Sarkozy is taking legal action for libel and invasion of privacy against the former head of a French intelligence agency.
The move follows the publication of leaked extracts from diaries belonging to Yves Bertrand.
The extracts include unsubstantiated allegations about several leading politicians, including Mr Sarkozy.
Mr Bertrand's agency reports to the government on internal political issues and threats to domestic order.
However, it is clear from the contents of his notebooks that as head of a domestic intelligence agency, Mr Bertrand viewed his remit rather more broadly.
Published in Le Point news magazine, the private notebooks contain all sorts of tittle-tattle about the financial, sexual and personal secrets of prominent men and women.
It is not known where Mr Bertrand got his information from, but he evidently felt no compunction about including any scrap of gossip that came his way.
The notebooks were recently seized by justice officials as part of an investigation into political dirty tricks.
Mr Sarkozy believes - and the notebooks appear to bear this out - that during the early years of this decade the then President, Jacques Chirac, was using the Renseignements Generaux agency to dig up dirt on his rivals, of whom Mr Sarkozy was one.
Another - the former socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin - has also said that the intelligence chief tried to destabilise him by investigating his family and friends.
Mr Jospin said that as prime minister he tried to sack Mr Bertrand but was prevented from doing so by President Chirac.
Significantly, one of the reforms undertaken by President Sarkozy has been to disband the Renseignements Generaux agency.
Mr Bertrand says the contents of the notebooks were private and not meant to be taken as facts.