Agents fired as probe into Colombian wiretap scandal continues

Juan M. Santos

Juan M. Santos

Colombia’s Administrative Department of Security (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad, or DAS) suffered one of the most extensive purges in its history this week, when 22 of its detectives were fired in connection with an investigation into illegal wiretapping. Last January, the scandal-prone counterintelligence service was revealed to have engaged in systematic communications interception against several public figures in Colombian political life. Those targeted included Supreme Court judges, prominent journalists, as well as the chief of the Colombian National Police, former president Cesar Gaviria, and even the minister of defense Juan Manuel Santos. The warrantless interceptions appeared to be part of a concerted effort to discover the “vices and weaknesses” of public figures, including “details about sexual preferences”, extra-marital affairs, and liquor or drug habits. Interestingly, the eavesdroppers used sophisticated interception devices purchased by DAS from the US and the UK. In February, Colombian president Alvaro Uribe curtailed DAS’ communications surveillance powers and launched a detailed investigation into the affair. Late on Monday, Colombia’s attorney general said that 22 DAS detectives had been dismissed from the service and would face “judicial and administrative investigations”. Moreover, the attorney general hinted that more dismissals will be announced shortly, as it appears that “four separate groups within DAS conducted the illegal eavesdropping”. Although the investigation is still inconclusive, there are increasing suspicions that the surveillance scheme was devised and implemented by senior intelligence officials.

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

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