The proposed Intelligence Act put forward by the Colombian government seeks to imprison public officials who leak secret information for a period of five to eight years, El Espectador reported Thursday.
President Juan Manuel Santos’ newly proposed intelligence and counter-intelligence law stipulates that the disclosure of confidential documents for “the benefit of oneself or others” will be punished by imprisonment for between five and eight years, “provided that the conduct does not constitute an offense punishable by a heavier penalty.”
Public servants who commit such a crime will also be barred from holding public office for 10 years and receive a fine of up to 120 minimum monthly wages, $34,560 based on the current wage.
The rejection of total transparency was justified by Santos on the grounds of ensuring national security and preventing intelligence information being leaked to illegal armed groups.
“Now it is usual to leak everything, and the media publish it all. To this we must also put an ‘ultimatum’ because much of that information gives valuable information to gangs, terrorists [and] enemies,” he stated.
Some media sources have interpreted this “ultimatum” as being directed against the press, a controversial issue considering it was largely due to press publications that the illegal wiretapping by Colombia’s security agency DAS, under the previous Uribe administration, was uncovered.
Colombian journalist Hollman Morris recently commented via Twitter that Juan Manuel Santos had promised NGOs that they would not be persecuted for thinking differently, “he just forgot to name journalists!”
Liberal Senator Juan Manuel Galan, a speaker at the Congress of the Law on Intelligence, instead moved to quash notions of any potential press censorship, insisting that there will be no return to the days of illegal wiretapping at the hands of DAS.
“The media, when they know of a crime or a crime in which the intelligence agencies are compromised, have all the guarantees and freedom to report it and make it known to the public,” RCN Radio reports him saying.
The possible amendment to the penal code is part of the government’s proposal for a new state intelligence agency that would replace the discredited DAS and form a new government ministry.
The Senate passed a bill March 16, 2011 that will grant extraordinary powers to the government for six months to divide and restructure ministries and state agencies.