Colombia: surveillance scandal shakes secret police

Revelations in the Colombian newsweekly Semana that the Department of Administrative Security (DAS) illegally listened in on the telephone conversations of judges, politicians and journalists prompted the resignation Feb. 23 of DAS deputy director Jorge Alberto Lagos—and denials of involvement by President Alvaro Uribe. “I have never given a single order to monitor these people’s private lives,” Uribe said. The president blamed the eavesdropping on a “mafia gang” within the DAS. (AFP, Feb. 23)

An anonymous DAS official told the Bogotá daily El Tiempo that DAS recordings of intercepted calls would be reviewed to verify the claims of Semana. The official said the agency has three eavesdropping operations, code-named “Vino,” “Plata” and “Amarillo”—the last jointly run with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and dedicated to tracking money-laundering networks. The official said he was confident that the DAS internal investigation would clear the agency of having undertaken the illegal intercepts—referred to colloquially as chuzadas—at the behest of a foreign intelligence agency. (El Tiempo, Feb. 22)

The DAS has been plagued by a series of scandal over the past years, with the agency’s director forced to resign last year and in 2005. The scandal has also helped stall the pending free trade agreement between Colombia and the US.

See our last post on Colombia.