COLOMBIA: Spying Knows No Borders

  • by Constanza Vieira (bogotÁ)
  • Wednesday, June 30, 2010
  • Inter Press Service

Filed officially as a row amongst drunks at a Halloween party attended by agents from Colombia's Administrative Department of Security (DAS, attached to the office of the president), survivors of the incident claimed six months later that the killings were an attempt to obstruct justice.

DAS officers took over the crime scene that day, and for several hours blocked Colombia's judicial police from entering.

The detective who fired his weapon did so under orders from his superiors, claim the survivors. Current DAS director Felipe Muñoz denies the accusations and says the agent in question accepted the charges of double homicide.

The dead, the two people injured, and the agent who fired, 'were part of a special counterintelligence corps' that for a time mixed legal and illegal activities, according to a May article in the Bogotá journal Semana.

In his report to the Venezuelan National Assembly, El Aissami presented DAS documents found in the possession of a Colombian woman and obtained through interrogations of two Colombians and one Venezuelan arrested Oct. 2, 2009 in the northern Venezuelan city of Maracay.

Many of the facets of the incident exposed by the Venezuelan ministry were verified in April of this year by DAS officials on the Colombian Contravía television programme, interviewed in Semana, or in sworn testimony in the case before the Supreme Court against the former DAS director Jorge Noguera.

The DAS coordinated four operations, three against Latin American governments: Falcon (Venezuela), Salomon (Ecuador), Fénix (Cuba) and Cóndor, the last reportedly against 'Islam' in general, according to one detective's statement on Contravía.

The DAS cross-border intelligence offensive began four yours ago, intensified in 2008 and continued with force in 2009, said the detective.

But that contradicts the version of events reported in the Ecuadorean newspaper El Universo de Guayaquil, based on statements from a DAS agent operating in Quito. In its edition Monday, Jun. 28, the newspaper detailed the alleged DAS espionage against Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa.

According to the source in El Universo, the operations in Ecuador began in 2008 and only after the Mar. 1 bombardment just inside the Ecuadorean border of a Colombian guerrilla camp in which rebel negotiator Raúl Reyes was killed. That aerial attack caused a rupture between the two neighbouring countries.

The coordination of the Falcon, Salomon, Fénix and Cóndor operations took place under front businesses, outside the DAS sphere. The rent for those headquarters was allegedly paid for by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), according to the documents that El Aissami presented.

In that respect, a DAS witness in the Supreme Court case mentioned the U.S. embassy in Bogotá, and another statement refers to 'a foreign government.'

Falcon, Fénix and Cóndor were said to have been financed by the CIA through a cooperation programme with the DAS that paid people for information. The deputy director for counterintelligence in Bogotá is said to have overseen the operations.

Fénix and Falcon had 14 members and hired what they referred to as 'human sources' in positions to provide strategic trans-border information.

The DAS investigator who spoke on Contravía referred to a 'terrible crime against sister nations,' but did not specify what it was.

DAS top brass would have sought indictment of the DAS officials and former agents to prevent them from being tried in the International Criminal Court, he said.

The ICC, based in The Hague, only hears cases of war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide in which national courts are unable or unwilling to prosecute.

The results of the spying operations were allegedly sent to the Colombian presidential palace to the advisors of President Álvaro Uribe, as well as to Juan Manuel Santos, who was Defence minister at the time and is now president- elect.

At least three official presentations were made to Santos, including one at his home, such as an assessment of Andrés Peñate, DAS director from November 2005 to August 2007, say DAS agents.

The coordinating group has changed its name and objective over the years. Just from 2003 to 2009, it was known by three different titles: G-3, GONI and GCOE.

The group GAME existed in 2005, financed and trained by the United States, according to the Semana article, and obtained weapons on the black market, one detective confessed.

The activities of these groups have been classified as 'matters of national security,' which means tough restrictions on information sought by court investigators or journalists.

The 'national security' status remains despite the fact that former director Noguera is on trial for having put the DAS at the service of the ultra- rightwing paramilitary groups in Colombia led by drug-trafficking bosses. Such collusion is considered a transnational crime.

All of the DAS directors who served under the government of Uribe (in office since August 2002) are facing lawsuits for the illegal persecution of judges, human rights defenders, political opposition and civil society leaders, and journalists.

© Inter Press Service (2010) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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