On 13 September 2015, the man widely believed to be the real centre of power in Algeria officially left office. General Mohamed ‘Toufik’ Mediene, sometimes nicknamed rabb dzair [the lord of Algeria], the 76-year-old head of the country's intelligence and security apparatus – never seen in public, rarely glimpsed in unverified photographs, the incarnation of the opaque, unaccountable, faceless form of le pouvoir – had retired, ‘relieved of his functions’ in the terse formulation of a presidential communiqué as reported in the press. Whether he left the office he had occupied unchallenged for 25 years of his own choosing or under pressure from the coterie around the ailing 78-year-old President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was unclear – and relatively unimportant. The move could have been significant. ‘Toufik’ was the architect of the Département du Renseignement etdela Sécurité (DRS, Military Intelligence Services), the iron core of the ‘deep’ state that had waged its merciless war on, and of, terror through the 1990s and had become indispensable, untouchable, all but unnameable, known to every Algerian and answerable to no one. Observers of Algeria and human rights activists both in the country and abroad had long recognized that any meaningful move towards more democratic, accountable and law-bound government must necessarily pass through the removal of the DRS from the centre of the state and its subordination to legal oversight; doubtless for their own factional reasons, as well as or more than on principle, Algerian political party leaders regularly demanded the dismantling, or at least the thorough ‘restructuring’, of the political police. In 2015, and for several years before, the rumour mill of the Algerian media was regularly fed with accounts of the ongoing tussle between the presidency and the DRS, and in the course of the summer of 2015 the agency did indeed see its prerogatives reduced, transferred to elements of the army, in what some saw as a significant clipping of the sharpclawed secret services’ wings. In the context of a long-deferred ‘transition’ away from Algeria's apparently calcified authoritarianism, the retirement of Toufik might indeed have signalled a real departure, ‘la fin d'une époque’ [the end of an epoch] (Ouali, 2015), ‘un véritable séisme dans la vie politique nationale’ [an earthquake in the nation's political life] (Mesbah, 2015).