U.S. security aid and even officials may have been linked to illegal actions by the Colombian government in the guise of fighting terrorism and drug smuggling, The Washington Post said late Saturday.
U.S. money, equipment and training supplied to elite units of the Colombian intelligence service were used to carry out spying operations and smear campaigns against Supreme Court justices, former president Alvaro Uribe’s political opponents and civil society groups, it said.
The newspaper cited law enforcement documents and interviews with prosecutors.
Six former high-ranking officials of the Colombian Department of Administrative Security (DAS) have already confessed to crimes, and more than a dozen other agency operatives are on trial.
The Uribe government wanted to “neutralize” the Supreme Court because its magistrates were undermining ties between presidential allies in the Colombian congress and right-wing paramilitary groups, the report said.
Colombian prosecutors say the intelligence agency was directed by the president’s office to collect the banking records of magistrates, follow their families, bug their offices and analyze their court rulings, The Post noted.
“All the activity mounted against us — following us, intercepting our telephones — had one central purpose, to intimidate us,” the paper quoted Ivan Velasquez, the court’s lead investigative magistrate, as saying.
Some of those charged or under investigation have described the importance of U.S. intelligence resources and guidance, and say they regularly briefed embassy “liaison” officials on their intelligence-gathering activities, The Post said.
“We were organized through the American Embassy,” William Romero, who ran the DAS’ network of informants and oversaw infiltration of the Supreme Court, told the paper.
Like many of the top DAS officials, he received CIA training, the report said, adding that some were given scholarships to complete education in intelligence-gathering at U.S. universities.