New Wiretapping Scandal Casts Doubt on Colombian Military’s Support for Peace Talks
April 11, 2014
“It’s a relatively small place, near the Galerías shopping mall in western Bogotá. It now doesn’t have the sign outside that had idenfitied it, hanging over the two windows with glass that blocks the view of the interior. In a small terrace, under a black awning, there are eight tables and 24 chairs. Inside there are seven more tables, and a curved staircase that leads to a second floor, which has a large room with a gigantic television and computer workstations. …”
“Despite the exotic combination of luncheonette and computer instruction center, a secret is hidden there: behind the facade is a National Army signals interception center.”
The business described here was registered in Bogotá on September 12, 2012, just a few days after Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced the launch of talks with the FARC guerrilla group. From this room, reports an investigation published to the website (but not the paper version) of Colombia’s Semana newsmagazine, soldiers and civilian hackers working for Colombian military intelligence carried out illegal wiretaps and email intercepts.
Their targets included “the same ones as always”–NGOs and leftist politicians. This is outrageous enough. But the Army unit was also tapping into the emails and text messages of the Colombian government team negotiating with the FARC in Havana, Cuba.
“Jaramillo (Sergio Jaramillo [a negotiator and the high commissioner for peace]), Éder (Alejandro Éder [director of the presidential demobilization and reintegration office, and an alternate negotiator]) and De la Calle (Humberto de la Calle [the lead negotiator]) were some of those whom I remember. The idea was to try to obtain the largest amount of information about what they were talking about, and how it was going,…” a source told Semana.com.
One of the most important, and most uncertain, questions about Colombia’s peace process with the FARC is the extent to which the country’s powerful military actually supports it. These new revelations multiply the uncertainty.
President Juan Manuel Santos has gone to great lengths to keep the generals in the tent: defense and security are off the negotiating agenda, a prominent retired general is one of the negotiators, FARC calls for a bilateral cease-fire–which the military resists–have been flatly refused, and the Santos administration has tried (and so far failed) to give military courts greater jurisdiction over human rights cases, in what some analysts regard to be a quid pro quo.
The chief of Colombia’s armed forces, Gen. Leonardo Barrero, insisted in a recent interview that “we feel very well represented in the dialogues.” But there is little doubt that a significant portion of the officer corps, who have all spent their entire career fighting the FARC, would prefer to end the conflict on the battlefield. It is for that reason that support for ex-president Álvaro Uribe, a fierce opponent of the negotiations, remains high among the officers. As María Isabel Rueda, a longtime reporter and columnist for Colombia’s most-circulated newspaper, El Tiempo, recently put it: “Soldiers have hearts too, and some of them still beat more for Uribe than for Santos.”
If the armed conflict ends in Havana, Colombia’s military will be in for a rough time, institutionally. Officers and soldiers will be expecting gratitude, and there will be parades, medals, and ceremonies. But post-conflict Colombia will also hold the spectacle of officers accused of human rights abuses forced to undergo humiliating confessions as part of a transitional justice process. A truth commission will detail brutal behavior. And the armed forces, faced with a reality in which citizen security threats outrank national security threats, will find it very hard to justify a membership of 286,000 [PDF] soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen. Latin America’s second-largest armed forces, and its largest army, could shrink considerably. (Colombia’s 175,000-strong police, however, could grow.)
If the armed forces choose to resist these post-conflict shifts–starting now, while talks continue–they have some assets to deploy. They are huge and politically popular. They have important allies in Colombia’s political establishment, Álvaro Uribe high among them. And they have a crucial ally in the United States, which has forged a deep and broad military-to-military relationship in the 14 years since “Plan Colombia” emerged. Military sources tell Semana that the Army intelligence unit that oversaw the spying operation gets generous support from the CIA. We do not know, though, whether any of the equipment used in the wiretap/luncheonette came from the United States.
The U.S. role is very important. The Obama administration, the Department of Defense, and the U.S. Southern Command can do much to determine whether Colombia’s civil-military relationship is smooth or friction-filled over the next several years. The key is in the messages that they convey to their allies in the Colombian armed forces–and the central message should be that illegal or undemocratic behavior is counter-productive and will damage the bilateral relationship. And that undermining an elected civilian president’s effort to negotiate peace, or to reconcile the country afterward, counts as “illegal and undemocratic behavior.”
As criminal investigators try to piece together this new military spying scandal, those messages from the Colombian military’s U.S. “partners” should be louder and clearer than ever.
5 Feb 2014
By Adam Isacson
Find this story at 5 February 2014
Colombian military and CIA accused of spying on peace talks
April 11, 2014
Colombia’s Defense Minister announced Tuesday that an investigation will be opened into the alleged wiretapping of both the state and rebel delegations to ongoing peace talks between the government and the FARC rebel group.
The move comes in the wake of revelations published by weekly Semana on Monday.
Based on 15-months of reporting and testimony from an unnamed inside source, Semana concluded that a Colombian military intelligence unit funded and coordinated by the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) used advanced online technology and hacking techniques to monitor the text messages and emails of opposition politicians and representatives of both the government and the FARC involved in the Havana peace negotiations.
Phone calls, reportedly, were not recorded.
Classified under the code name “Andromeda,” the military’s Technical Intelligence Battalion’s so-called “gray hall” operated from underneath a registered bar and restaurant in the Colombian capital of Bogota, according to Semana.
An anonymous military source, said to be a captain in the Colombian military and the supervisor of the clandestine site, told Semana that the Andromeda project was run by Bitec-1, an elite intelligence unit instrumental in the Colombian government’s operations against the FARC, including 2008′s famous Operation Jaque, which resulted in the recovery of 15 hostages in the state of Guaviare, among them former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, and in which the CIA also played a key role.
According to the report, the secret intelligence center also recruited civilian hackers called ‘campus parties’ to collaborate with the military on cyber espionage tasks.
On Tuesday, Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon claimed via twitter that his office would be launching an investigation into “the alleged wiretapping of the negotiating team in Havana.” Senate President Juan Fernando Cristo, meanwhile, has since indicated that a congressional committee will also be assigned to look into the revelations.
“To follow up on the episodes,” said Cristo, according to national media sources, “we will assign this committee to convene and evaluate the case and also meet with the Minister of Defense, Juan Carlos Pinzón and with the military leadership [involved].”
Interior Minister Aurelio Iragorri Valencia, meanwhile, said in an interview with Blu Radio that while he questions the accuracy of the espionage allegations, “the complaint is very serious and should be clarified (…).”
The government’s response is strange, in that if Semana’s reporting is accurate, the Minister of Defense himself would be implicated in the scandal he is now supposedly investigating, as would National Army Commander Juan Pablo Rodriguez Barragan, whom Pinzon publicly placed in charge of the investigation.
This discrepancy has led opposition political leader Ivan Cepeda to call for the minister’s immediate resignation. Cepeda, a congressman said to be relatively close to the peace talks, is one of a number of opposition political figures who may have been subject to the alleged wiretapping.
Fellow opposition leader and member of the Colombian Communist Party’s Central Executive Committee Carlos Lozano called the covert intelligence program part of the government’s “antidemocratic measures.” In an interview with Colombia Reports, Lozano went even further than Cepeda and suggested that secret intelligence gathering is part of the broader political targeting of opposition political parties by violent neo-paramilitary groups working in conjunction with the Colombian state.
So far, Colombia Reports has not been able to obtain a response from the FARC or the Colombian government’s peace delegation regarding the revelations, but further updates will be forthcoming.
Feb 4, 2014 posted by Maren Soendergaard
Find this story at 4 February 2014
Colombia Reports © 2014
Uribe is behind peace talks wiretapping: FARC
April 11, 2014
Colombia’s oldest and largest living rebel group, the FARC, on Wednesday accused former President Alvaro Uribe of being behind the military’s alleged spying on the government and rebel delegations currently engaged in peace talks.
“Of course, Alvaro Uribe is behind all of this. Don’t forget that Alvaro Uribe is public enemy number one of peace in Colombia,” said the FARC’s number two leader and chief peace talks negotiator “Ivan Marquez” on Wednesday morning.
This represents the first formal accusation of the former president in his involvement with this ongoing wiretapping scandal that has shaken Colombia.
Colombian weekly magazine Semana published a 15-month investigative story with accusations that the Armed Forces have been wiretapping both the government’s and the rebel group FARC’s delegations in ongoing peace talks in Havana, Cuba. The report also asserted that the military had been receiving funding and support from the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in carrying out the alleged wiretapping.
Socialist Colombian congressman Ivan Cepeda was quoted in newspaper La Republica suggesting as well that Uribe could have been behind this wiretapping scandal. When speaking with Colombia Reports, the lawmaker did not formally accuse the ex-president of having a hand in this. Instead, he said that ”this was an action very clearly intended to destabilize the peace process in Havana. I think this action has been publicly promoted by ex-President Alvaro Uribe, and that the ex-president should be investigated for this situation.”
Just four years ago, Uribe himself was widely suspected of being involved in a large wiretapping scandal that included the illegal spying on and interceptions of calls and emails of opposition politicians, Supreme Court judges, human rights activists and journalists. This scandal ultimately led to the disbanding of the DAS, Colombia’s former security intelligence agency.
Paralleling his claims during the last scandal, Uribe has denied all involvement or knowledge of this new ordeal after rapidly appearing on radio programs and writing press released to the effect.
“The Democratic Center (Centro Democratico-CD) –Uribe’s political party– emphatically rejects the biased and malicious versions of [President Juan Manuel] Santos’ government, the FARC and political sectors that are trying to link the ex-president Alvaro Uribe Velez, with the ‘wiretappings of peace negotiators in Havana’ realized by elements of the National Army,” read a Wednesday morning press release.
Uribe also shot back in an interview with radio station W Radio.
“With an investigation of 15 months, the president had to have known what was happening!” said the former head of state, pointing out that the director of Semana is a family member of Santos.
The FARC, in an official statement also released Wednesday expressed disappointment in the government for allowing this to happen, calling “corruption” and “scandals” and “dirty tactics of war” institutionalized in the country. “This will not achieve generating confidence,” read the statement.
“Marquez” (the nom-de-guerre of Luciano Marin) called this news, “very serious” saying that, “They are not just spying on the government’s peace delegation, but also they are especially doing so on the FARC’s peace delegation.”
Alvaro Uribe has been an avid dissident of the peace talks ever since their official start in November of 2012. The former president has criticized the fourth historic attempt at dialogues with the FARC on many levels, ranging from saying that the government should not be negotiating with terrorists, to releasing photos of some guerrillas lounging on boats during discussions in Havana.
Though Uribe never testified in his initial wiretapping scandal, if more evidence besides accusations mounts against him in this case, he may have to testify before a court, or congress.
Posted on Feb 5 2014 – 12:19pm by Editor
Find this story at 5 February 2014
U.S. aid implicated in abuses of power in Colombia (2011)
April 11, 2014
The Obama administration often cites Colombia’s thriving democracy as proof that U.S. assistance, know-how and commitment can turn around a potentially failed state under terrorist siege.
The country’s U.S.-funded counterinsurgency campaign against a Marxist rebel group — and the civilian and military coordination behind it — are viewed as so successful that it has become a model for strategy in Afghanistan.
But new revelations in long-running political scandals under former president Alvaro Uribe, a close U.S. ally throughout his eight-year tenure, have implicated American aid, and possibly U.S. officials, in egregious abuses of power and illegal actions by the Colombian government under the guise of fighting terrorism and drug smuggling.
American cash, equipment and training, supplied to elite units of the Colombian intelligence service over the past decade to help smash cocaine-trafficking rings, were used to carry out spying operations and smear campaigns against Supreme Court justices, Uribe’s political opponents and civil society groups, according to law enforcement documents obtained by The Washington Post and interviews with prosecutors and former Colombian intelligence officials.
The revelations are part of a widening investigation by the Colombian attorney general’s office against the Department of Administrative Security, or DAS. Six former high-ranking intelligence officials have confessed to crimes, and more than a dozen other agency operatives are on trial. Several of Uribe’s closest aides have come under scrutiny, and Uribe is under investigation by a special legislative commission.
U.S. officials have denied knowledge of or involvement in illegal acts committed by the DAS, and Colombian prosecutors have not alleged any American collaboration. But the story of what the DAS did with much of the U.S. aid it received is a cautionary tale of unintended consequences. Just as in Afghanistan and other countries where the United States is intensely focused on winning counterterrorism allies, some recipients of aid to Colombia clearly diverted it to their own political agendas.
For more than a decade, under three administrations, Colombia has been Washington’s closest friend in Latin America and the biggest recipient of military and economic assistance — $6 billion during Uribe’s 2002-10 presidency. The annual total has fallen only slightly during the Obama administration, to just over a half-billion dollars in combined aid this year.
Although significant gains were made against the rebels and drug-trafficking groups, former high-ranking intelligence agents say the DAS under Uribe emphasized political targets over insurgents and drug lords. The steady flow of new revelations has continued to taint Colombia’s reputation, even as a government led by Uribe’s successor and former defense minister, Juan Manuel Santos, has pledged to replace the DAS with a new intelligence agency this fall.
Prosecutors say the Uribe government wanted to “neutralize” the Supreme Court because its investigative magistrates were unraveling ties between presidential allies in the Colombian congress and drug-trafficking paramilitary groups. Basing their case on thousands of pages of DAS documents and the testimony of nine top former DAS officials, the prosecutors say the agency was directed by the president’s office to collect the banking records of magistrates, follow their families, bug their offices and analyze their court rulings.
“All the activity mounted against us — following us, intercepting our telephones — had one central purpose, to intimidate us,” said Ivan Velasquez, the court’s lead investigative magistrate and a primary target of the DAS surveillance.
Gustavo Sierra, the imprisoned former DAS chief of analysis, who reviewed intelligence briefs that were sent to the presidency, said that targeting the court “was the priority” for the DAS under Uribe.
“They hardly ever gave orders against narco-trafficking or guerrillas,” Sierra said in an interview.
Resources and guidance
Some of those charged or under investigation have described the importance of U.S. intelligence resources and guidance, and say they regularly briefed embassy “liaison” officials on their intelligence-gathering activities. “We were organized through the American Embassy,” said William Romero, who ran the DAS’s network of informants and oversaw infiltration of the Supreme Court. Like many of the top DAS officials in jail or facing charges, he received CIA training. Some were given scholarships to complete coursework on intelligence-gathering at American universities.
Romero, who has accepted a plea agreement from prosecutors in exchange for his cooperation, said in an interview that DAS units depended on U.S.-supplied computers, wiretapping devices, cameras and mobile phone interception systems, as well as rent for safe houses and petty cash for gasoline. “We could have operated” without U.S. assistance, he said, “but not with the same effectiveness.”
One unit dependent on CIA aid, according to the testimony of former DAS officials in depositions, was the National and International Observations Group.
Set up to root out ties between foreign operatives and Colombian guerrillas, it turned its attention to the Supreme Court after magistrates began investigating the president’s cousin, then-Sen. Mario Uribe, said a former director, German Ospina, in a deposition to prosecutors. The orders came “from the presidency; they wanted immediate results,” Ospina told prosecutors.
Another unit that operated for eight months in 2005, the Group to Analyze Terrorist Organization Media, assembled dossiers on labor leaders, broke into their offices and videotaped union activists. The United States provided equipment and tens of thousands of dollars, according to an internal DAS report, and the unit’s members regularly met with an embassy official they remembered as “Chris Sullivan.”
“When we were advancing on certain activities, he would go to see how we were advancing,” Jose Gabriel Jimenez, a former analyst in the unit, said during a court hearing.
The CIA declined to comment on any specific allegations or the description of its relationship with the DAS provided by Colombian officials. “The three letters CIA get thrown into the mix on a lot of things, and by a lot of people. That doesn’t mean that allegations about the agency are anything more than that,” said a U.S. intelligence official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
As initial DAS revelations emerged in the Colombian media during late summer 2009, then-U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield called an embassy-wide meeting and asked which U.S. agencies represented were working with the DAS, according to a secret State Department cable released by WikiLeaks. Representatives from eight agencies raised their hands — including the CIA, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service. All agencies, Brownfield reported in the Sept. 9 cable, “reaffirmed that they had no knowledge of or connection to the illegal activity and agreed to continue reducing their exposure to the agency.”
Brownfield, in subsequent meetings with Uribe and other officials, urged the government to get out in front of the disclosures and warned that they could compromise the U.S.-Colombia partnership.
“If another DAS scandal erupted, our Plan B was to terminate all association with DAS. Immediately,” Brownfield reported telling Francisco Santos, Uribe’s vice president, and DAS Director Felipe Munoz on Sept. 16, 2009.
Still, the relationship continued for an additional seven months. In April 2010, Brownfield announced that all U.S. funds previously directed to the DAS would henceforth go to Colombia’s national police. Today, the 51-year-old DAS, with 6,000 employees, multiple roles and an annual budget of $220 million, still limps along. But Munoz has been under investigation, as have four other former DAS directors.
Uribe, speaking through his lawyer, Jaime Granados, declined a request for an interview. But the former president has denied that he oversaw illegal activities and said officials from his government were being persecuted politically. Four of his top aides are under investigation, and his chief of staff, Bernardo Moreno, is jailed and awaiting trial on conspiracy and other charges.
Years of trouble
Interviews with former U.S. officials and evidence surfacing in the DAS investigation show that the agency has for years committed serious crimes, a propensity for illegal actions not unknown to embassy officials.
The first DAS director in Uribe’s presidency, Jorge Noguera — whom the U.S. Embassy in 2005 considered “pro-U.S. and an honest technocrat” and recommended to be a member of Interpol for Latin America, according to WikiLeaks cables — is on trial and accused of having helped hit men assassinate union activists. Last year, prosecutors accused another former DAS director of having helped plan the 1989 assassination of front-running presidential candidate, Luis Carlos Galan.
Myles Frechette, the U.S. ambassador to Colombia from 1994 to 1997, said that even in his tenure American officials believed that DAS units were tainted by corruption and linked to traffickers. But he said the embassy needed a partner to develop intelligence on drug smugglers and guerrillas.
“All the people who worked with me at the embassy said to me, ‘You can’t really trust the DAS,’ ” said Frechette. adding that he thinks the DAS has some of the hallmarks of a criminal enterprise.
Several senior U.S. diplomats posted to the embassy in more recent years said they had no knowledge that U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies were involved in DAS dirty tricks, but all said it would not surprise them.
“There were concerns about some kinds of activities, but also a need in the name of U.S. interests to preserve the relationship,” said one diplomat who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “I’m reasonably confident our support was correct.”
Duque is a freelance journalist based in Bogota, Colombia. Correspondent Juan Forero, also based in Bogota, contributed to this report.
By Karen DeYoung and Claudia J. Duque, Published: August 21, 2011 E-mail the writer
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Wiretapping Scandal Shakes Colombia (2011)
April 11, 2014
Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe (left) speaks during a public congressional hearing in Bogota earlier this month about allegations that the country’s intelligence service spied on high court judges during his government.
Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe (left) speaks during a public congressional hearing in Bogota earlier this month about allegations that the country’s intelligence service spied on high court judges during his government.
Eitan Abramovich/AFP/Getty Images
In Colombia, a major scandal involving the country’s intelligence service is unfolding. Colombia’s chief prosecutor says the spy service bugged the Supreme Court, intercepted the phones of its justices and followed their every move.
Prosecutors also say the illegal surveillance was directed from the offices of former President Alvaro Uribe, who in his eight years in power was Washington’s closest ally in Latin America.
With hours of tape as evidence, prosecutors say the Department of Administrative Services (DAS), which is under the president’s control, targeted the court’s justices and the investigative magistrates, who function something like prosecutors.
The purpose was to find ties between the criminal underworld and the court in order to discredit the country’s highest judicial body.
“Through the intelligence agency, they tried to control, attack and discredit — actions that cannot be viewed as some isolated DAS plan, an entity that is dependent on the presidency of the republic,” prosecutor Misael Rodriguez said at a court hearing earlier this year.
He says Bernardo Moreno, Uribe’s chief of staff, oversaw the effort. Moreno has been charged and is in jail awaiting trial. He denies the accusations.
Former President Uribe, who left office last year and has not been charged, denies any involvement.
Alba Luz Florez, a former Colombian intelligence agent, has avoided charges in the scandal by cooperating with prosecutors. She used court security people, chauffeurs and even the coffee ladies to plant bugs and gather intelligence.i
Alba Luz Florez, a former Colombian intelligence agent, has avoided charges in the scandal by cooperating with prosecutors. She used court security people, chauffeurs and even the coffee ladies to plant bugs and gather intelligence.
But prosecutors say the president’s office wanted to derail court investigations linking illegal armed groups and congressmen allied with Uribe.
William Romero is among the former high-ranking DAS members who have told prosecutors that the agency collected information and shipped it to the president’s office.
“What we were told was that this was a requirement of the director of the DAS and the president, to know how narco-traffickers were manipulating inside the Supreme Court,” Romero tells NPR.
Romero and other former agents also say that DAS units used some American assistance in the illegal surveillance. The State Department in Washington says it has no knowledge of U.S. government equipment being misused in Colombia.
In one court chamber, bugging devices were placed under tables where exchanges between judges and witnesses take place.
The person responsible for the bugging was Alba Luz Florez, a 33-year-old former agent known to DAS as Y-66.
“They made me see it as a national security [issue], that national security could be compromised by this possible connection,” Florez says, referring to possible underworld ties with judges. “So for me it was an honor [to undertake the operation].”
Florez, who avoided charges by cooperating with prosecutors, used court security people, chauffeurs and even the coffee ladies to plant bugs and gather intelligence.
Among those she recruited was the driver for the court’s top investigative magistrate, Ivan Velasquez.
“I knew everything about his family, absolutely everything about his children,” Florez says, referring to the driver. “So I began to see what he liked, how I could perhaps fill his needs.”
She learned the driver needed to pay child support for several children, so she paid him. And she learned that he admired Uribe, the then-president.
“Let’s do it for the president,” she recalls telling him.
The small office of Velasquez, the star investigative magistrate, had once been bugged.
“Here I talk to all kinds of people, with lawyers, with eventual witnesses that can provide information, people who know about things that happen in their regions and want to help,” says Velasquez, sitting at his desk. “There are risks to these declarations. What I mean is that a microphone here could be very effective.”
He says the surveillance was designed to intimidate him and witnesses.
But to date, 30 congressmen — virtually all allies of Uribe — have been convicted after being investigated by the court.
And the attorney general’s office has also been busy: Four of Uribe’s top aides are under investigation. The former president’s conduct is also under review, by a special legislative commission.
by JUAN FORERO
August 29, 2011 5:50 PM ET
Find this story at 29 August 2011
Colombia: The dark side of Alvaro Uribe (2010)
April 11, 2014
So far, retirement has been a little rocky for the hugely popular former president.
BOGOTA, Colombia — After Alvaro Uribe accepted a job at Georgetown University, a Colombian humorist suggested the former president should teach a course on wiretapping.
On his first day of class last week, Uribe was met by protesters who held up banners calling him a mass murderer.
Back in Colombia, meanwhile, nearly a dozen of Uribe’s former advisers are under investigation for abuse of power and could end up in prison.
So far, retirement has been a little rocky for Uribe. He is considered a hero by many Colombians for improving security in this war-ravaged nation. But since he stepped down on Aug. 7, more light is being shed on the dark side of his eight years in office.
“His legacy will still be positive due to the security gains,” said Michael Shifter, a Georgetown professor and president of the Inter-American Dialogue think tank. “But his record was sullied by these scandals. These were Uribe’s people and he bears political responsibility for what happened.”
Uribe ran into trouble, analysts say, because he became increasingly power-hungry and paranoid.
First elected in 2002, Uribe quickly sought congressional approval of a constitutional amendment so he could stand for re-election in 2006. At the time, the Colombian constitution banned presidents from serving more than one four-year term.
The amendment was approved but accusations emerged that government ministers secured the support of key lawmakers by offering them jobs and other benefits. Two legislators were convicted of receiving payoffs and Uribe’s former interior and social protection ministers are now under investigation for bribery.
Even more serious is a scandal known as DAS-gate, which, according to Shifter, “makes Watergate look like child’s play.”
The DAS is the Colombian equivalent of the FBI and during the Uribe administration its agents illegally monitored the telephone calls and actions of opposition politicians, human rights workers, journalists and even Supreme Court justices.
At the time, dozens of pro-Uribe lawmakers were being investigated by the Supreme Court for their financial and political links to right-wing death squads. They included Senator Mario Uribe, the president’s cousin, who later resigned and went to prison. Experts say the president’s men wanted to embarrass and discredit the court judges.
“Uribe believed the Supreme Court was out to get him,” said Alfonso Cuellar, an editor at Semana news magazine, which broke the DAS-gate story. “That was not true but that’s what Uribe believed because he was surrounded by a small group of people who fed him rumors.”
This month, new details emerged about the infiltration campaign from a DAS agent cooperating with the investigators. Alba Florez, who has been dubbed by the Colombian media as the DAS Mata Hari, said she persuaded the bodyguards and personal assistants of Supreme Court judges to spy on their bosses.
Florez persuaded a cleaning lady to place a tiny tape recorder in the main chambers of the court which allowed the DAS to monitor the judges as they discussed criminal accusations against Uribe’s allies. The agent paid large sums for photocopies of court documents and even tried to record sessions with a tiny video camera.
Florez testified that Maria del Pilar Hurtado, who then headed the DAS and is now under investigation, knew all about her mission. “She was very pleased with our work,” Florez said.
So far, no smoking guns have emerged to tie Uribe directly to the case.
But former DAS agents claim the information on the Supreme Court was ordered by top officials and sent to the presidential palace. One ex-spy told investigators: “The president’s office demanded immediate results.”
Besides Uribe’s hand-picked DAS chief, his chief of staff, his attorney and several other close aides are also under investigation. Their legal problems prompted a quip from former Colombian president Andres Pastrana.
Noting that several of his former ministers have joined the new Colombian government, Pastrana said: “My aides are being called to serve. Uribe’s aides are being called to testify.”
While in office, none of these scandals dented Uribe’s popularity, which is why he was known as the Teflon president. Yet accusations of wrongdoing now dog Uribe as he builds a new life as an ex-president.
For example, Uribe’s inclusion last month on a U.N. panel that is investigating Israel’s May 31 storming of a Turkish-owned flotilla bound for Gaza brought a new round of protests. Human rights activists claimed Uribe is not qualified to defend international law, in part, because he ordered an illegal cross-border military raid into Ecuador in 2008 that killed a Colombian guerrilla leader.
At Georgetown, where Uribe assumed his new post as “distinguished scholar in the practice of global leadership,” demonstrators pointed out that under his watch Colombian troops were accused of killing thousands of innocent civilians and dressing them up as guerrillas.
But fans of the former president also showed up at Georgetown to claim that his overall record — which includes military victories against Marxist rebels, a steep reduction in kidnappings and an economic boom — far outweigh the negatives. One supporter told reporters: “Uribe has been able to give more security to the Colombian people and I think that’s something very admirable.”
Many Colombians agree. Indeed, Uribe is considering running next year for mayor of Bogota — the country’s second-most important political post — and polls indicate that, should he declare his candidacy, he would be the instant front runner.
John Otis September 22, 2010 07:05 Updated September 22, 2010 07:05
Find this story at 22 September 2010
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Colombia ex-spy chief Hurtado granted Panama asylum (2010)
April 11, 2014
Panama has granted political asylum to the former head of Colombia’s secret police, Maria del Pilar Hurtado.
The ex-director of the Department of Administrative Security is wanted over illegal wiretapping operations that could implicate Colombia’s previous president, Alvaro Uribe.
She has already left Colombia – she was not challenged as she passed through DAS-run immigration controls.
Panama’s move has caused outrage in Colombia.
She was granted asylum after “a careful analysis of the request… and the circumstances of reasonable fear for her personal security that prompted her to leave her country”, AP quoted the Panamanian foreign ministry as saying.
The president of Colombia’s Supreme Court, Jaime Arrubla – who was himself a victim of illegal wiretaps by the DAS – expressed surprise at the decision.
The concept of political asylum was to “protect those persecuted for their political ideas, not the persecutors”, he said.
As head of the DAS from 2007-2008, Ms Hurtado was one of the few people who could possibly directly implicate former president, Alvaro Uribe, in the illegal wiretapping of his political opponents and the judges who were seeking to block his actions and re-election prospects.
The DAS answers only to the president, but Mr Uribe has denied issuing any orders that violated the law or the constitution.
His private secretary, Bernardo Moreno, has already been banned from holding public office as investigations into the wiretapping scandal continue.
But no charges have been brought against the former president.
20 November 2010 Last updated at 02:29 Share this pageEmailPrint
By Jeremy McDermott
Find this story at 20 November 2010
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Colombian intelligence agency scandal (2009) nieuwere artikelen >>
April 11, 2014
DAS, the Colombian intelligence agency, is out of control. It is illegally tapping journalists, judges and politicians and its services have been used by drug dealers, paramilitaries and guerrillas.
Colombian intelligence agency scandal.
Colombia woke up on Monday facing a controversy of enormous proportions, since Semana magazine revealed in its most recent edition, after a six-month investigation, that the DAS, the national intelligence agency, has been illegally wiretapping prominent politicians, journalists and judges.
Early morning, President Alvaro Uribe sent a message to a national radio station to try and control the debate, which has even spread internationally. In it he emphatically states that he has “never given an order to look into the private lives of people” and describes himself as a “loyal man who is fair with his opponents and does not cheat on them”. Juan Manuel Santos, the country’s minister of Defense, also gave his opinion on the topic, describing it as a delicate subject for national security.
Irrespective of Alvaro Uribe’s statement, the news has already spread and the first decisions have been taken. The Office of the Attorney General (procuraduría) gave the order to investigate who is in charge of the illegal tapping. Earlier, the CTI, the investigation department of the Prosecutor General’s Office (fiscalía), had taken control of the premises where the tapping was being organized, and Jorge Lagos resigned from his post as deputy counter-intelligence director. Apart from that, Felipe Muñoz, head of DAS, announced that a special committee will be set up to look into the problem.
All these decisions were taken after Semana published on Sunday its cover story on the topic. According to one of the detectives who works in DAS and who spoke to the magazine, “here (at DAS) you look at targets who can be a threat to the safety of the State and the president. Among them you can find the guerrillas, criminal gangs and drug traffickers. But also, and that is obvious because of the functions DAS is in charge of, controlling some people and institutions in order to inform the Presidency. For example, how can we not control (Gustavo) Petro, who is a former guerrilla and a member of the opposition? Or Piedad Córdoba (liberal party senator), because of her links to Chávez and the guerrilla?” The magazine confirmed this with four other members of DAS.
Other important figures who have been tapped are members of the Supreme Court and Iván Velásquez, a judge who leads the investigations regarding the links between politicians and paramilitary leaders and who had more than 1,900 phone calls intercepted. Journalists have also suffered from this problem. A counterintelligence detective told SEMANA that one of the goals behind tapping media and journalists “is informing the government of what is being done in the media, in order to give the government some time to react when critical situations arise”.
The subject of illegally tapping members of the Supreme Court and the government, journalists and opposition leaders is only the tip of the iceberg of what is happening in the intelligence agency. The disorder has not only been capitalized on by members of the government to get “political favours”. Criminal organizations such as drug traffickers, paramilitaries or the guerrilla have also found there a very valuable source of information which is sold to the highest bidder.
SEMANA obtained judicial record certificates sold to paramilitaries two years ago controlled by drug trafficker Miguel Ángel Mejía Múnera. The confidential documents, which can only be requested by a small number of DAS directors, were surprisingly in the hands of Nicolás Escobar, a close friend of the paramilitary leader who demobilized and is now in prison.
The Army also found last year a computer, owned by members of the ELN guerrilla group, which contained DAS documents about the operations of that agency against the rebels.
All in all, this debate has raised again a vital question: What must be done with DAS? The agency will never be able to carry out its main goals –provide intelligence to defend Colombian democracy- if actions such as illegally tapping people are considered by some of its workers as “normal”. Just as the body count policy led to the deadly false positives scandal, the idea that any detractor of the President or the government is a “legitimate target” resulted in the tapping of journalists, judges and politicians. It is definitely very dangerous for democracy in this country that DAS operates like a political police force and that some of its employees use their post to commit a crime.
Investigation by SEMANA.
23 febrero 2009
Find this story at 23 Feruary 2009
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