Colombia: government spies on peaceniks

The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), a US-based interfaith peace organization with an affiliate in Colombia, is charging that Colombian government agencies have intercepted more than 150 e-mail accounts of nonviolent groups like the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, along with Colombian nongovernmental organizations. FOR says Colombia’s police intelligence agency was intercepting groups’ e-mail from December 2006 until as recently as November 2008. In a letter to US ambassador William Brownfield, 14 US-based groups noted that in 2006 the US State Department gave the police intelligence agency a $5 million contract to provide “internet surveillance software.” “As a result,” the letter says, “US taxpayers were apparently paying for Colombian agencies to spy on legitimate US and Colombian humanitarian organizations.”

The surveillance is especially dangerous for Colombian groups, since right-wing paramilitary squads, which often work closely with the police and the military, have a record of violence against human rights workers and labor organizers. The Colombian groups monitored were the Movement for Victims of States Crimes, the Colombian Network for Action on Free Trade, the Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Collective, and the Yira Castro human rights organization. (Prensa Rural, Colombia, Dec. 24)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Dec. 21

See our last post on Colombia.