Current Weather
The Spy FM

Wiretapping Scandal Shakes Colombia

Filed by KOSU News in World News.
August 29, 2011

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,” prosecutor Misael Rodriguez said at a court hearing earlier this year. “Actions that cannot be viewed as some isolated DAS plan, an entity that is dependent on the presidency of the republic.”

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.

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. [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]

Leave a Reply

11PM to 5AM The Spy

The Spy

An eclectic mix of the Spy's library of more than 10,000 songs curated by Ferris O'Brien.

Listen Live Now!

5AM to 6AM The Splendid Table

The Splendid Table

Hosted by award-winning Lynne Rossetto Kasper, The Splendid Table is a culinary, culture and lifestyle program that celebrates food and its ability to touch the lives and feed the souls of everyone.

View the program guide!

6AM to 7AM Travel with Rick Steves

Travel with Rick Steves

"Travel with Rick Steves" is a fun, hour-long, and practical talk show with guest experts and calls and questions from travelers. This weekly program is a lively conversation between travelers and the experts as we learn to explore our world smartly, smoothly, and thoughtfully.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center