US State Department accused on spying on interfaith group

The International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) is a faith-based organization, established in 1919, with offices in over 50 countries. Current or past members of IFOR include several Nobel Laureates, among them Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel. In a statement released on December 17, IFOR has accused the US State Department of routinely intercepting “for two full years” the electronic communications of the organization’s US branch. Specifically targeted were communications concerning FOR’s Latin America program, generated both in the US and Colombia, the statement said. It also alleged that the spying on FOR appears to be part of a wider operation targeting “more than 150 e-mail accounts of human rights organizations, journalists, academics, and labor organizations”. The group suspects that the communications interception operation involved collaboration between the US State Department and the Colombian government, and recallsa June 2007 black bag operation in which computers containing scores of “sensitive files” were surreptitiously extracted by persons unknown from IFOR’s Bogota, Colombia, office. Black bag operations refer to covert, surreptitious entries into structures in the course of human intelligence missions. If confirmed, this latest revelation will not point to the first instance of government spying against IFOR. In 2005, the organization informed its supporters in the US that “10,000 pages of FBI files had been released to [it], documenting decades of surveillance of the organization”. IFOR’s statement did not speculate as to the reasons for the alleged spying, but it is likely the operation is related to the so-called war on drugs. In April of 2001 the CIA mistakenly shot down a Cessna 185 floatplane carrying an American Christian missionary family, including two children, who were traveling from Colombia to Peru. The attack on the plane resulted in the death of the mother and one of the children. The CIA, who had thought the plane was transporting drugs, subsequently “misled and even lied to Congress about what happened and did not supply accurate information to the Department of Justice or the Bush administration”, according to a report issued last November by the Office of the US Inspector General. The report also revealed that  the CIA “obstructed inquiriesinto its role in the shooting down” of the aircraft by “cover[ing] up evidence of its failings”.  [JF]

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

2 Responses to US State Department accused on spying on interfaith group

  1. Actually, the organization being spied on by the Colombian government was FOR-USA, the U.S. branch of IFOR which is an interfaith (not Christian) organization. To learn more about this program, visit http://forcolombia.org

    Thanks for the coverage!

  2. intelNews says:

    Corrections made. Many thanks for your clarification. We would be interested in learning (eventually) whether the US State Department operation against FOR-USA was in any way linked to the so-called “war on drugs”. [JF]

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