Colombia’s former president, Alvaro Uribe, was one of the world leaders included on a list of “high-value” NSA surveillance targets, of which at least one was subject to covert wiretapping, German magazine Der Spiegel reported on Sunday.
The so-called “Target Knowledge Database,” one of many top secret documents released to major international news outlets by intelligence leaker Edward Snowden since last summer, includes the names of 122 current and former world leaders singled out for close monitoring by the US National Security Agency (NSA).
Then-President Alvaro Uribe is one of the 11 heads of state featured on the portion of the 2009 document published by Der Spiegel. Also included was German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose private cell phone was tapped by the NSA, according to previous leaks.
As Der Spiegel reported, “An internal NSA description states that employees can use [the database] to analyze ‘complete profiles’ of target persons.”
The document shows that the NSA had compiled more than 702 citations on Uribe as of May 2009, more than any of the other 10 leaders. A citation, or “cite,” as it is referred to within the intelligence community, is a piece of information “derived [automatically] from intelligence agencies, transcripts of intercepted fax, voice and computer-to-computer communication,” according to Der Spiegel.
Der Spiegel does not specify the extent to which Uribe was targeted, or what surveillance methods were employed against him.
Earlier reports indicate that Colombia is the third most spied-on nation in Latin America by the NSA, whether despite or because of the strong cooperation between the countries’ militaries. According to the Brazilian O Globo newspaper, the NSA monitored drug traffickers and Colombia’s largest rebel group, the FARC, and also collected meta-data information on the digital communications of the Colombian public.
Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin said at the time that NSA surveillance “violates the right to privacy of individuals, and of international conventions on telecommunications.” After a meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry, however, Holguin declared that ”all the assistance in this respect has been relevant” and ”we have received the necessary assurances in order to continue to work on this” bilateral relationship.
To date, no Colombian media outlets had reported on the NSA surveillance of Uribe.
Uribe is himself the subject of a congressional investigation related to the targeted wiretapping of opposition politicians, human rights groups, journalists and Supreme Court justices that occurred during his presidency. High-level members of the former president’s administration have also been implicated in the scandal.
Current president Juan Manuel Santos served as Uribe’s minister of defense at the time, and was a strong proponent of US-Colombian joint intelligence ventures.
Santos’ administration, as well, has produced its own wiretapping scandal. In Februrary, it was revealed that a unit of National Army Intelligence had used CIA equipment and funding to record the communications of opposition politicians, journalists and delegates to ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC rebel group.
At the time this article was published, neither Uribe nor the President’s Office was willing to comment on the Der Spiegel report.