New details on army, police illegal wiretaps: WikiLeaks

Cables released by WikiLeaks on Wednesday give details on illegal wiretapping carried out by members of Colombia’s police, army and Prosecutor General’s Office against a Supreme Court magistrate.

A cable dated October 13, 2009 discusses a case in which members of the Colombian national police, army and the Prosecutor General’s Technical Investigation Team (CTI) were found to be involved in the illegal surveillance of Supreme Court magistrate Ivan Velazquez, the lead investigator into the “parapolitics” scandal.

The wiretapping was begun on behalf of the army, with another in operation on behalf of the CNP. As soon as Velazquez was identified, wiretapping ceased, according to the cable.

However, according to the cable, the CNP restarted the wiretap the following day, thus making all further surveillance operations illegal.

The acting Prosecutor General, Guillermo Mendoza, announced on September 21 that preliminary investigations showed that two prosecutors from his office, not the DAS, were behind the illegal surveillance, with the CNP Chief Oscar Naranjo adding that three CNP officers were also involved.

However, in a cable from September 22, 2009, the motive behind the wiretapping and the network of those implicated became more complicated with a statement by then-Defense Minister Gabriel Silva that he had received indications that the prosecutors involved had received payments from U.S. bank accounts.

No further information on the motive or the source of funding channeled through U.S. accounts was given by Silva.

Then-President Alvaro Uribe used the complexity of events to claim that it was all a “criminal vendetta” aimed at undermining his government.

Director of the DAS Felipe Muñoz added his opinion that the whole Velazquez saga was aimed at embarrassing the administration rather than at actual surveillance.

These announcements came at a time when Uribe was being pressured by the U.S. to clean up the DAS for its part in the scandal. Any information as to the DAS’s or central government’s non-involvement was thus welcomed by the administration it appears.

However, Oscar Naranjo later told the then-U.S. Ambassador, William Brownfield, in October 2009, that he personally suspected Uribe’s Chief of Staff Bernardo Moreno and adviser Jose Obdulio Gaviria of having ordered the wiretaps.

According to Brownfield, Naranjo is “perhaps the smartest, best informed member of the GOC (Government of Colombia). His views and observations are usually worth serious consideration.”

Moreno has since been barred from holding public office for 18 years for his involvement in the wiretapping scandal.

Three people from the CNP and CTI were arrested on November 26, 2009 for their part in the illegal surveillance of Velazquez, though no information as to who ordered the operation or its purpose was unearthed.

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