Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Who isn't the government illegally tapping?

I recently returned from vacation, hence the lack of blog posts. I therefore post below a note from FOR's most recent Colombia newsletter about the latest intelligence scandal in Colombia. My addition is the too-unbelievable-for-fiction fact that Uribe government officials, rather than calling for a full investigation, have insinuated that because Semana, a widely-regarding news magazine, uncovered the story, it has ties to the guerrillas.

Less than two months after the interception of FOR's email - along with other 150 email accounts - was revealed, a new scandal of spying on opposition emerged during the last weekend of February. The weekly magazine Semana uncovered a massive wiretap operation carried out by the Department of Administrative Security (DAS), the Colombian secret police that answers directly to the President.

The targets this time included Supreme Court Justices who are investigating members of Congress close to President Uribe, including his cousin Mario Uribe. The Uribe government have fiercely attacked several of those justices, accusing them of "engaging in witness trafficking" and political persecution. Over the past 18 months, the justices and their families have also been targeted for harassment, including one whose home was broken into with just a laptop stolen.

Ivan Velásquez, the justice handling the parapolitica investigation, reportedly had more than 1,900 phone calls intercepted in a three-month period and has been subject to a "man to man" surveillance. In October 20007, "Tasmania," a right wing paramilitary leader, was reportedly bribed to falsely accuse Velásquez of manipulating testimony. No one has been charged for any of the attacks on the justices.
Evoking the Fujimori-Montesinos regime in Peru that targeted political adversaries for intelligence operations, the latest set of illegal interception targets also included opposition politicians, journalists, and even some government officials. The intercepts are an effort, according to the whistleblowers, because "you have to have insurance" against the victim of wiretapping denouncing the one who ordered it.

President Uribe has denied any involvement in the illegal operation. The government portrays the scandal as an infiltration from the mafia into the intelligence agency.

The justices have announced taking the abuses to the United Nations and the Organization of American States, saying the abuses amount to "a plot against the Supreme Court." The justices have also made clear that it is not enough to prosecute the officials who have implemented the wiretapping, but to reveal who ordered them and who has benefited from the information illegally obtained.

The abuses of the Colombian intelligence are linked to U.S. military aid. The U.S. has contributed equipment used in the abusive interception, according to Semana. Although U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield stated his rejection of such use of American aid, there has been almost no debate in Washington about the "causalities" of U.S. aid in terms of basic human rights and civil liberties.

No comments: