New revelations in the spying scandal that has cast a shadow over ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government and the country’s FARC rebel group since early last week indicate that, apart from opposition politicians and delegates from the peace talks themselves, the Colombian Army was also recording the communications of journalists covering the negotiations.
In a ground-breaking report that came only days after Colombia’s Semana magazine released the original story, the US-based Univision media company revealed Saturday what it claims is exclusive evidence that groups of Colombian military intelligence hackers have been intercepting thousands of emails between spokespeople for Colombia’s oldest rebel group and international journalists.
A correspondence of 2,638 emails sent between FARC spokespeople for the Havana-based talks — Hermes Aguilar and Bernardo Salcedo – and dozens of journalists from around the world covering the talks was reportedly intercepted from two separate accounts.
The messages include interview and general information requests to the FARC delegates from employees of international news agencies AP, Reuters, EFE, Prensa Latina, DPA (Germany), AFP (France), as well as major Colombian outlets El Tiempo and Radio Caracol, and other media platforms from countries including Spain, Holland and Germany.
“Pandora’s box has been opened,” internet security expert Vicente Pimienta told Univision. “Unfortunately we will continue to see this pattern not only in Colombia and Cuba, but all over the world.”
The security expert’s gravest concerns were regarding the security and privacy of the journalists, as hackers could just as easily gain access to the accounts of the press representatives rather that the members of the FARC.
Reporter Sagrario Garcia-Mascaraque from Spanish TV channel TVE confirmed to Univision the contents of one of the emails she had sent to Salcedo requesting an interview with one of the FARC’s interlocutors.
“It shouldn’t surprise me because everyone’s doing it now – [for example] the US with heads of state – but it disturbs me and it angers me that they’re violating my privacy like this,” Garcia-Mascaraque told Univision.
Marisol Gomez Giraldo, the editor in charge of the peace talks for Colombia’s El Tiempo newspaper, on the other hand stated that she was not so bothered by the spying leak, as journalists are conscious of the fact that the FARC is often targeted by intelligence services.
According to the report, none of the peace talk interlocutors were subject to interceptions.
This most recent revelation comes less than a week after Colombian newspaper Semana denounced the Colombian military for recording the text messages and emails of both Colombian and FARC representatives taking part in the peace negotiations in Havana, Cuba, a scandal that kicked up international outrage and led to the almost immediate dismissal of Chief of Military Intelligence Ricardo Zuñiga and Director of the Technical Intelligence Center of the National Army Oscar Zuluaga.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos initially condemned the news as being “unacceptable,” suggesting that there were “dark forces” behind the electronic espionage. Nonetheless, the head of state apparently pulled an about-face the following day, when he justified the actions as being “totally legal,” allowed by Colombia’s own Intelligence Law.
The president has said he will wait on the results of ongoing internal investigations before taking any disciplinary action.
This latest investigation was carried out by Colombian journalist Gerardo Reyes and Venezuelan journalist Casto Ocando of Univision, the US-owned Spanish-language media outlet.
- Hackers militares espiaron conversaciones entre las FARC y periodistas (Univision)
- “Periodistas que cubren proceso paz fueron espiados” (El Espectador)
- Santos dice que fachadas para hacer inteligencia son “totalmente lícitas” (Caracol Radio)
- Fuerzas oscuras están detrás de ‘chuzadas’ al proceso de paz: Santos (El País)