Colombia will invest more than $50 million in the creation of a police intelligence unit that is able to wiretap internet services like Facebook and Skype, newspaper El Tiempo reported Sunday.
According to the daily’s Sunday edition, the online wiretapping equipment that the police aims to acquire will allow authorities to “intercept in real-time and with a warrant what is said, written and sent in emails, [and on] Facebook, Twitter, Line, Viber, Skype” and other online platforms.
The new spying service reportedly has been dubbed the Unique Monitoring and Analysis Platform, or PUMA for its acronym in Spanish.
The center of operations will be constructed in the west of the capital Bogota and managed by the Prosecutor General’s Office together with the Inspector General’s Office.
According to El Tiempo, the new spy center can be operational by 2014.
“The strengthening of the PUMA platform aims to cover 20,000 media, among which we foresee the inclusion of telephone networks and communications traffic over data networks,” Colombia’s highest police official, General Jose Roberto Leon told the newspaper.
Authorities are now only able to wiretap telephones, which caused a major scandal in 2009 when then-opposition Senator Gustavo Petro discovered that he, the Supreme Court, journalist and human rights organizations had been wiretapped and shadowed illegally by then-spy agency DAS on the order of the President’s Office, at that time under Alvaro Uribe.
Leon told El Tiempo that PUMA will not be used for intelligence purposes, but only to support ongoing criminal investigations.
Nevertheless, opposition Senator Jorge Enrique Robledo, whose party was victim of illegal surveillance, told W Radio that the new wiretapping techniques are “scary.”
Coalition Senator Juan Carlos Lozano told El Tiempo that the investment in amplified wiretapping possibilities was necessary to undo the “disorder” of the current spy system. According to him, authorities will be submitted to “protocols and absolutely strict checks so they won’t break the law.”