The US has given Colombia ‘the necessary assurance” over spying activity by the US National Security Agency (NSA) in the South American country that had caused discontent in Bogota, Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin said Monday.
The foreign minister did so in a joint press conference with US Secretary of State John Kerry, who was in Colombia to talk about ongoing peace talks with Colombia’s FARC rebels, trade and the aforementioned spying scheme.
According to Holguin, “we did touch this subject” and “we have received the necessary assurances” about the NSA’s spying activities in Colombia.
“The cooperation between the two countries from the time this came up in the face of public opinion has been very important. I was able to talk to Ambassador [Michael] McKinley from the outset and was paid a visit by people from the Ministry of Defense and people who work in the intelligence community as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I visited Washington, and an important meeting was held which turned out to be very positive,” said Holguin.
When news broke about the NSA’s spying on Colombian citizens, Holguin said the spying activities “violate the right to privacy of individuals, and of international conventions on telecommunications.”
However, following her meeting with Kerry, Holguin proved a lot less negative and actually said there were benefits for Colombia in the foreign interception of phones and internet traffic.
According to the minister, “this is important for Colombia. All the assistance in this respect has been relevant, to say the least, and we hope that this will be done within the framework of bilateral and legal conditions in the relationship that we have. And we have received the necessary assurances in order to continue to work on this.”
Kerry said that the spying scheme that spurred the rejection of a number of South American NSA target countries was “in fact a very small part of the overall conversation “and one in which I am confident that I was able to explain thoroughly precisely how this has received the support of all three branches of our government, it has been completely conducted under our Constitution and the law, and how we have respected the concerns of other countries and will continue to. ”
According to the US secretary of state, “this is a dangerous world we’re living in” and Washington is “necessarily engaged in a very complex effort to prevent terrorists from taking innocent lives in many different places.”
Additionally, Kerry said “everything that we do will be geared in an appropriate way to work with our friends and our partners to respect their laws and to do this in a way that meets the highest standards of expectations of rights and privacy.”
According to secret documents obtained by Brazilian newspaper O Globo, the NSA was responsible for a constant flow of intelligence gathering on Colombia and other Latin American countries dating back to 2008, giving the US intelligence service access to Colombians’ web chats, browsing activities, emails and voice mails. O Globo claimed that the United States were not only interested in military affairs, but used these programs to access the “trade secrets” of targeted nations.
- Transcript of press conference (State Department)