The cables show that then-U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield told then-Vice President Fransisco Santos to toughen his government’s relationship with the DAS, and ordered him to carry out a “thorough, transparent and public,” investigation of the secret service agency for its part in the illegal wiretapping of government critics.
Santos acknowledged the demands, and even contemplated dissolving the DAS altogether, according to a cable sent form Bogota to Washington the day after the September 15, 2009, meeting.
While the attitude of the U.S. Embassy prior to this demand seemed limited to observing, recording and reporting back to Washington on the wiretap scandal, their stance changed when it emerged that one of the illegal recordings made was of a phone call between a U.S. Embassy official and a Colombian judge.
In regards to this eavesdropping, Santos and Brownfield eventually agreed that the call had probably not been recorded by the DAS, according to El Pais, but the ambassador said that the gravity of the matter had not been diminished.
Brownfield stated that the U.S. wanted a reliable partner with which to exchange information, and that the DAS as it existed was not ideal for this role.
“The ambassador said that the Colombian government had better have a ‘Plan B’ in case of another intelligence service scandal,” revealed the cable. And if not, the U.S. would apply their own ‘Plan B’ and “end our relationship with the DAS. Immediately.”
Santos agreed with the American ambassador that the DAS had to be cleaned up but stressed that then-President Uribe did “not fully understand the depth of the crisis,” a position that Uribe has maintained.
Six days later Brownfield met with Uribe and was told that the Colombian president had begun to dismantle the DAS.
During the meeting, “an unusually animated and agitated Uribe telephoned the Prosecutor General Guillermo Mendoza” to ask him how the investigation into the wiretapping was going. He put the call on speaker phone for Brownfield to hear and eventually told the U.S. ambassador that he had decided to dismantle the DAS.
Three days prior to their meeting, Uribe ordered the DAS director Felipe Muñoz to report all the details of the dismantling to Brownfield.
Muñoz confirmed to the U.S. ambassador that of the agency’s 6,500 employees, 2,000 would be forced to retire and 4,500 would be sent to other agencies. He said that “most of the employees of the new intelligence agency would be new professionals with no connection to the DAS.”
Muñoz wanted Brownfield to see that they were making a full investigation into the actions of the DAS and that those responsible would be punished.
In his cable dated September 16, 2009, the ambassador concluded by saying that to restore public credibility of the intelligence service the Colombian government may face “a higher price than it is willing to pay.”
A year and a half later, Felipe Muñoz is still director of the DAS, the agency has not been dismantled and prosecutors are still investigating the illegal wiretapping.