Escadrons de la mort, l'école française

Robin made a 2003 film documentary titled Escadrons de la mort, l'école française (The Death Squads: The French School) that investigated the little-known ties between the French secret services and their Argentine and Chilean counterparts. (The next year she published a book on the same topic.) Specifically, she documented that the French transferred to Argentina counter-insurgency tactics which they had developed and used during the Algerian War (1954–62), including extensive use of torture and disappearances. The security forces later used them during the Dirty War (1976-1983) and for Operation Condor. She received an award in 2003 for the "best political documentary of the year" by the French Senate, in recognition of this work.[3] Robin said in an August 2003 interview in L'Humanité:

"[the] French have systematized a military technique in urban environment which would be copied and pasted to Latin American dictatorships".[4]

While J. Patrice McSherry noted that the United States had also taught Argentine and other Latin American military officers, and had a larger role in Operation Condor, he said that Robin "succeeds exceptionally well" in illuminating the lesser known French connection.[5] People in Argentina were outraged when they saw the 2003 film, which included three generals defending their actions during the Dirty War. Due to public pressure, "President Néstor Kirchner ordered the military to bring charges against the three for justifying the crimes of the dictatorship." They were Albano Hargindeguy, Reynaldo Bignone, and Ramón Díaz Bessone.[5]

Her associated book on the death squads was published in 2004. Robin expanded on her discussion of how the French military officials had taught Argentine counterparts counter-insurgency tactics, including the systematic use of torture as they had used it during the Algerian War. She documented a 1959 agreement between Paris and Buenos Aires that created a "permanent French military mission" in Argentina, formed of French veterans of the Algerian War (1954–62). The mission was located in the offices of the chief of staff of the Argentine Army. Roger Trinquier was a French theorist of counter-insurgency who legitimized the use of torture. His noted book on counter-insurgency, Modern Warfare: A French View of Counterinsurgency, had a strong influence in South America and elsewhere, including in the School of the Americas. Trinquier was a member of the Cité catholique fundamentalist group. It recruited many former members of the OAS pro-"French Algeria" terrorist group and opened a subsidiary in Argentina near the end of the 1950s. It had an important role in teaching ESMA Navy officers counter-insurgency techniques, including the systematic use of torture and ideological support.[4]

In a related issue that Robin documented, Manuel Contreras, the head of Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional (DINA) had told her that the Direction de surveillance du territoire (DST) French intelligence agency had given Chilean secret police the names of refugees in exile in France, and those who had returned to Chile from France (Operation Retorno). The Chileans who returned were killed, but France prevented CONDOR assassination of Chilean exiles on its soil.[5] In an interview Robin said that her findings meant that the French government, and Giscard d'Estaing, then President of the Republic, were responsible for the deaths of people in Chile. She said, "I was very shocked by the duplicity of the French diplomatic position which, on one hand, received with open arms the political refugees, and, on the other hand, collaborated with the dictatorships."[4]

General Paul Aussaresses also taught the US Army these tactics. Its forces used torture and interrogation during the Vietnam War in the Phoenix Program, through which an estimated 20,000 civilians were killed.[5]