Colombia’s ex-spy chief on trial for 1989 killing of election candidate

Luis Carlos GalánThe former director of Colombia’s intelligence service returned to court this week to face charges of complicity in the assassination of a leading presidential hopeful, who was gunned down in 1989 by a powerful drug cartel. Luis Carlos Galán, a senator and former minister, was tipped to win the 1990 presidential election in which he stood on the Liberal Party ticket. His popularity with the electorate is largely attributed to his uncompromising stance against Colombia’s powerful drug cartels. He had vowed to arrest leading drug lords and send them to the United States to face criminal charges. He would do so, he said, after signing a mutual extradition treaty with Washington. However, Galán was assassinated on August 18, 1989, during a campaign rally in Soacha, a working-class suburb of Colombia’s capital, Bogotá. The assassination took place before thousands of spectators who were present at the rally, and is considered one of the highest-profile political killings in the history of Colombia.

A notorious hitman for the Colombian mafia, John Jairo Velázquez, was convicted of Galán’s killing. Velázquez admitted in court that had been ordered to kill the Liberal Party senator by Pablo Escobar and Jose Gonzalo Rodriguez, the two most senior leaders of the powerful Medellín Cartel. In 2007, a former justice minister and presidential hopeful, Alberto Santofimio, was convicted of helping organize Galán’s murder. He is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence for the killing.

On Monday, another senior government figure, General Miguel Maza Márquez, was taken to court to face charges of complicity in Galán’s assassination. Maza headed Colombia’s highly disreputable Administrative Department for Security (DAS) in the late 1980s, and he has been in jail since 2013, awaiting trial for the murder. The prosecution alleges that Maza appointed a DAS officer who had known links to the Medellín Cartel as the head of security for Galán, and that he did so to “help the hitmen carry out the assassination”. This is the second time Maza is standing trial for Galán’s murder. He faced the same charges in 2012, after surrendering himself to justice in 2009, following two years in hiding. He denies all charges against him.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 03 June 2015 | Permalink: https://intelnews.org/2015/06/03/01-1708/

Colombian ex-spy head sent to prison over wiretapping scandal

Maria del Pilar HurtadoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The former director of Colombia’s intelligence service, who recently surrendered after being on the run for five years, has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for organizing an illegal wiretapping campaign against politicians, judges and other high-profile personalities. María del Pilar Hurtado directed the highly disreputable Administrative Department for Security (DAS) from 2007 to 2009. But on October 31, 2010, she left Colombia, apparently unobstructed, despite being a prime subject in a high-level investigation into political spying by DAS. She later surfaced in Panama, where she formally requested political asylum. The latter was granted to her in November 2010, causing the amazement of public prosecutors in Bogota, who accused the Panamanian government of subverting Colombian justice.

Hurtado is among 18 senior officials facing charges for criminal activities during the administration of Colombia’s former President Alvaro Uribe. His critics accuse him of authorizing a massive program of political surveillance, which targeted former presidents, Supreme Court judges, prominent journalists, union leaders, human rights campaigners, and even European politicians. Last summer, after consistent diplomatic pressure from the Colombian government, Panama’s Supreme Court to ruled that Hurtado’s asylum had been granted to her in violation of the Panamanian constitution. Eventually, Hurtado’s asylum was revoked; but by that time the fugitive former spy director had once again disappeared. Her whereabouts remained unknown until September 30 of this year, when Interpol issued an international arrest warrant for her capture. That same evening, Hurtado appeared at the Colombian embassy in Panama and promptly identified herself, stating that she was turning herself in.

In reporting on Hurtado’s sentencing, the Reuters news agency noted on Thursday that approximately “two-thirds of Uribe’s closest political allies during his presidency […] have been convicted, sanctioned or investigated for crimes”. Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports that several senior Colombian justice officials have called for a wider investigation of Uribe himself and several of his top aides, for their role in the DAS wiretapping program.

Colombian ex-spy head convicted over wiretapping scandal

Maria del Pilar HurtadoBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
The former director of Colombia’s intelligence service, who recently surrendered after being on the run for five years, has been convicted for organizing an illegal wiretapping campaign against politicians, judges and other high-profile personalities. María del Pilar Hurtado directed the highly disreputable Administrative Department for Security (DAS) from 2007 to 2009. But on October 31, 2010, she left Colombia, apparently unobstructed, despite being a prime subject in a high-level investigation into political spying by DAS. She later surfaced in Panama, where she formally requested political asylum. The latter was granted to her in November 2010, causing the amazement of public prosecutors in Bogota, who accused the Panamanian government of subverting Colombian justice.

Hurtado is among 18 senior officials facing charges for criminal activities during the administration of Colombia’s former President Alvaro Uribe. His critics accuse him of authorizing a massive program of political surveillance, which targeted former presidents, Supreme Court judges, prominent journalists, union leaders, human rights campaigners, and even European politicians. Last summer, after consistent diplomatic pressure from the Colombian government, Panama’s Supreme Court to ruled that Hurtado’s asylum had been granted to her in violation of the Panamanian constitution. Eventually, Hurtado’s asylum was revoked; but by that time the fugitive former spy director had once again disappeared. Her whereabouts remained unknown until September 30 of this year, when Interpol issued an international arrest warrant for her capture. That same evening, Hurtado appeared at the Colombian embassy in Panama and promptly identified herself, stating that she was turning herself in.

In delivering its unanimous guilty verdict, Colombia’s Supreme Court said on Friday that Hurtado had “abused her authority” through a series of “wrongful and arbitrary acts”, which included the systematic “unlawful violation of communications”. Commenting on the court’s decision, a lawyer for one of Hurtado’s victims, former senator Piedad Cordoba, said the court should also consider the question of “who drove [Hurtado] to commit the offenses” against Uribe’s critics. Many of the victims in the court case against Hurtado have publicly accused former President Uribe of ordering the wiretaps. He denies the accusations. Hurtado could face up to 18 years in prison. She is expected to be sentenced today.

Colombia’s fugitive ex-spy chief wanted by Interpol surrenders

Maria del Pilar HurtadoBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
The former director of Colombia’s security service, who is accused of spying on senior political figures, has turned herself over to the authorities after five years on the run. María del Pilar Hurtado directed the highly disreputable Administrative Department for Security (DAS) from 2007 to 2009. But on October 31, 2010, she left Colombia, apparently unobstructed, despite being a prime subject in a high-level investigation into political spying by DAS. She later surfaced in Panama, where she formally requested political asylum. The latter was granted to her on November 19, 2010, causing the amazement of public prosecutors in Bogota, who accused the Panamanian government of subverting Colombian justice.

Hurtado is among 18 senior officials facing charges for criminal activities during the administration of Colombia’s former President Alvaro Uribe. His critics accuse him of authorizing a massive program of political surveillance, which targeted former presidents, Supreme Court judges, prominent journalists, union leaders, human rights campaigners, and even European politicians. Last summer, after consistent diplomatic pressure from the Colombian government Panama’s Supreme Court to ruled that Hurtado’s asylum had been granted to her in violation of the Panamanian constitution. Eventually, Hurtado’s asylum was revoked; but by that time the fugitive former spy director had once again disappeared.

Her whereabouts remained unknown until last Friday, when Interpol issued an international arrest warrant for her capture. That same evening, Hurtado appeared at the Colombian embassy in Panama and promptly identified herself, stating that she was turning herself in. Colombian authorities immediately flew her to Bogota on a specially chartered plane. Upon her arrival at the Colombian capital, a judge ordered her arrest and she was taken to prison. She is currently awaiting trial inside a high-security ward at the Office of the Public Prosecutor in Bogota. Authorities say Hurtado is under heavy police protection, as there are fears that some of her former colleagues in the now defunct DAS may try to assassinate her.

Panama tries to block extradition of Colombia’s former spy chief

Ana BelfonBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org
Senior government officials in Panama continue to shelter one of Colombia’s notorious former spy chiefs, who is wanted in Colombia for spying on opposition figures. María del Pilar Hurtado directed the highly disreputable Administrative Department for Security (DAS) from 2007 to 2009. But on October 31, 2010, she left Colombia, apparently unobstructed, despite being a chief subject in a high-level investigation into political spying by DAS. Hours later, she surfaced in Panama, where she formally requested political asylum. The latter was granted to her on November 19, 2010, causing the amazement of public prosecutors in Bogota, who have accused the Panamanian government of subverting Colombian justice. Hurtado is among 18 senior officials in the administration of Colombia’s former President Alvaro Uribe. Critics of DAS accuse him of authorizing a massive program of political surveillance, which targeted the former Presidents, Supreme Court judges, prominent journalists, union leaders, human rights campaigners, and even European politicians. Finally, after years of diplomatic pressure by Uribe’s successor, Panama’s supreme court ruled last week that Hurtado’s asylum had been granted to her in violation of the Panamanian constitution. It consequently ordered that her residence permit, which was granted to her under the personal authorization of Panama’s heavy-handed President, Ricardo Martinelli, would become invalid after three working days. The three working-day deadline was set to expire at 5:00 p.m. local time on Tuesday. However, shortly before the cut-off time, Panama’s Attorney General, Ana Belfon (pictured), stepped in and effectively extended Hurtado’s residence permit deadline. In a dramatic move, Belfon filed an appeal on behalf of the government, asking the Supreme Court to clarify the conditions of the former spy chief’s deportation back to Colombia. In accordance with Panamanian legal procedure, the Supreme Court’s decision to cancel Hurtado’s residence permit is now suspended and the Colombian former spymaster will continue to enjoy the Panamanian government’s protection until the Supreme Court responds to the Attorney General’s appeal. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #676

Diego MurilloBy IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
►►US admits Pakistani doctor was CIA agent. The United States has confirmed publicly for the first time that a Pakistani doctor long suspected of collecting vital evidence before the assassination of Osama bin Laden was indeed working for the CIA. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has told 60 Minutes on CBS that Shakil Afridi helped provide proof that the compound in Abbottabad, to which they had tracked a Bin Laden courier, was indeed sheltering the al-Qaeda leader. Panetta also told 60 Minutes that he remains convinced that someone in the Pakistani government “must have had some sense” that a person of interest was in the compound. He added that he has no proof that Pakistan knew it was bin Laden.
►►Czech secret services accused of political spying. The Czech government “spies on” the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia (KSCM), Miroslav Grebenicek, its former leader, said in a parliamentary question to Prime Minister Petr Necas. Grebenicek said he had recently received information that the Interior Ministry and some intelligence bodies were “tasked to spying on the KSCM or to incite for, organize and execute the shadowing of the KSCM”. Necas dismissed the allegation, saying that the government does not shadow any party.
►►Colombian paramilitaries protected by spy agency. Colombia’s rightwing paramilitary organization AUC received the support of the country’s now-defunct intelligence agency DAS. The group also helped the government of former President Alvaro Uribe in a conspiracy to discredit the country’s Supreme Court that was investigating ties between the paramilitaries and politicians, according to official testimony by senior AUC commander Diego Murillo, alias “Don Berna”.

News you may have missed #649

María del Pilar Hurtado

María Hurtado

►►US-Russian tensions over stranded Kosovo aid convoy. A stranded aid convoy of more than 20 Russian trucks was stopped Tuesday by US soldiers at a Kosovo border with Serbia, increasing tensions in the volatile region. American forces say they believe the convoy’s cargo consisting of canned food, blankets, tents and power generators appears, is intended for minority Serbs, who reject Kosovo’s statehood, and have been blocking roads in the Serb-run north of the country to prevent Kosovar authorities from taking control.
►►IRA spy in Irish police was ‘open secret’. Former British army agent Kevin Fulton, also known as Peter Keeley, who infiltrated the IRA in the 1980s, has said it was an open secret in the IRA that it had a “friend” among the gardaí (Irish police) in Dundalk. Speaking to the Smithwick Tribunal, he named the “friend” as retired detective sergeant Owen Corrigan. See here for previous intelNews coverage of this issue.
►►Colombia asks Panama to extradite ex-spy chief (again). Panama’s Foreign Ministry says Colombia has asked it to extradite former Colombian intelligence director Maria del Pilar Hurtado (pictured) to face conspiracy, wiretapping and abuse of authority charges. Hurtado headed Colombia’s now-defunct DAS domestic intelligence agency in 2007 and 2008.

News you may have missed #646

Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai

Syed Fai

►►Analysis: Reorganizing Colombia’s disgraced spy agency. One former director of Colombia’s Administrative Department of Security, or DAS, has been convicted of conspiring to kill union activists. A former high-ranking manager is accused of collaborating with death squads to assassinate a television humorist. Dozens of agents have been implicated in what prosecutors call a systematic effort to illegally spy on the Supreme Court and opposition politicians, which some former DAS agents said was done with US equipment and funding. The new man in charge, however, Ricardo Giraldo, is an affable bankruptcy lawyer and former university professor, and his role is decidedly different from his predecessors’: namely to dismantle the agency.
►►Russian site snubs FSB request to block opposition networking. Russia’s top social networking site on Thursday defiantly rejected a request by the Federal Security Service to block opposition groups from using it to organize street protests accusing the authorities of rigging this week’s election. Over 45,000 people in Moscow alone have pledged on Facebook and the Russian site, VKontakte, to join fresh protests on Saturday against the 12-year rule of Vladimir Putin and the victory of his United Russia party in last Sunday’s parliament vote.
►►American citizen admits he took Pakistan spy money. Ghulam Nabi Fai, who is accused of working in Washington for Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, to lobby for Kashmiri independence, has pleaded guilty to secretly receiving millions of dollars from Pakistan’s spy agency in violation of US federal laws.

News you may have missed #635

Vitaly Shlykov

Vitaly Shlykov

►►UK to support Colombia’s new intelligence agency. The UK has announced that it will provide help and advice on the implementation of Colombia’s new national intelligence agency. Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos, along with National Security Adviser, Sergio Jaramillo, met with the director of Britain’s secret service MI6 to exchange experiences in intelligence to implement the new National Intelligence Agency of Colombia (ANIC). ANIC is supposed to replace the DAS, Colombia’s disgraced intelligence agency, which has been stigmatized by colluding with paramilitary groups and spying on union leaders, journalists and opposition politicians.
►►US intelligence to train analysts with videogames. The US intelligence community’s research group, the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA), has handed over $10.5 million to Raytheon BBN Technologies to start work on the Sirius program. The initiative aims to create a series of so-called “serious games” that would help intelligence analysts improve their objectivity and reasoned judgment when confronted with complex or culturally foreign scenarios.
►►Soviet spy who spent years in Swiss prison dies at 77. Vitaly Shlykov served for 30 years in the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian General Staff, known as GRU. During his career, he made frequent trips to the West on a false American passport. One of his duties was to maintain contacts with Dieter Felix Gerhardt, a senior officer of the South African Navy who was working as a Soviet spy. In 1983, Shlykov was arrested in Zurich while carrying about $100,000 in cash to hand over to Gerhardt’s wife. Soviet intelligence was unaware that Gerhardt and his wife had been arrested a few weeks earlier and had told interrogators about the meeting in Switzerland.

News you may have missed #626

Katia Zatuliveter

Katia Zatuliveter

►►Analysis: On largely forgotten CIA officer Jim Thompson. The CIA’s longtime man in Southeast Asia, Jim Thompson, fought to stop the agency’s progression from a small spy ring to a large paramilitary agency. He was in many ways unique, but by the 1950s and early 1960s he would become part of a larger, growing, and much less idealistic machine, one that would expose his naiveté –and punish him for it. Interesting historical analysis from Foreign Policy.
►►Court blocks naming NATO official who had affair with alleged Russian spy. We have written before that Katia Zatuliveter, who is accused by British MI5 of being a spy for Russia, has admitted having a four-year affair with Liberal Democrat MP Mike Hancock, as well as with a Dutch diplomat and a NATO official. The latter, a German diplomat, was pictured in a newspaper last week. However, his face was obscured because of the terms of a court order that means he cannot be identified.
►►Promises made about Colombia’s new spy agency. Colombia’s disgraced DAS intelligence agency has finally been dissolved. Now the government’s senior National Security adviser, Sergio Jaramillo, has said that Colombia’s new intelligence service will focus on combating “government infiltration by criminal organizations”. I guess it doesn’t hurt to be ambitious.

News you may have missed #618

Abdullah al-Senoussi

Al-Senussi

►►US Congressman urges expulsion of ‘Iranian spies’ at the UN. New York Congressman Peter King says the US should kick out Iranian officials at the UN in New York and in Washington because many of them are spies. Speaking at a hearing Wednesday, the Democrat said such a move would send a clear signal after the recent alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington.
►►Colombia’s intelligence chief denies knowledge of illegal wiretapping. Felipe Muñoz, the director of Colombia’s intelligence agency DAS has denied knowledge of illegal interception of unionists’ emails and phone calls by DAS employees, following the announcement that the Inspector General’s Office will be investigating these allegations. According to the allegations, Muñoz and other leading DAS officials were aware of the illegal interception.
►►Gaddafi intelligence chief now in Niger. Moammar Gadhafi’s intelligence chief, Abdullah al-Senussi (pictured), who is wanted by the International Criminal Court, has slipped into the desert nation of Niger and is hiding in the expanse of dunes at the Niger-Algeria border, a Niger presidential adviser said last week. Meanwhile, Gaddafi’s former spy chief, Moussa Koussa, has denied claims made in a BBC documentary that he tortured prisoners.

Colombian ex-spy chief gets 25 years for aiding death squads

Jorge Noguera

Jorge Noguera

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In a continent dominated by leftwing governments, Colombia is one of Washington’s few remaining allies. It is therefore unfortunate that the US-supported conservative government of Álvaro Uribe, which ruled Colombia from 2002 to 2010, has been one of the most corrupt regimes in recent Latin American history. The disgraced Colombian Administrative Department of Security (DAS) appears to have been the cornerstone in the Uribe administration’s corruption complex. Last Wednesday, Colombia’s Supreme Court convicted Jorge Noguera, Director of DAS from 2002 to 2005, to 25 years in prison, for systematically collaborating with illegal far-right death-squads. Noguera’s conviction was based on evidence recovered from the computer of a former death-squad commander, which led to a revealing testimony from former DAS director of information technology, Rafael Garcia. According to Garcia, Noguera routinely provided rightwing paramilitaries with lists of leftist politicians and activists, labor union leaders, and even journalists, who were then targeted for intimidation, blackmail or —in several instances— assassination. One such murdered victim was the late Dr Alfredo Correa de Andreis, who was shot by a death-squad in 2004. The court ordered Noguera to pay Professor Correa’s family nearly US$100,000 in restitution fees, as well as another US$2 million to the state for illegally destroying and expropriating confidential government documents. It is worth noting that at least one of Noguera’s predecessors, Miguel Maza Marquez, who directed DAS in the late 1980s, turned himself in to the authorities in 2009, and is now facing charges of ordering the 1989 assassination of reformist Colombian presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán —a self-styled enemy of Colombia’s drug cartels. Noguera’s successor at DAS, Maria Pilar Hurtado, is also wanted for her part in a nationwide wiretapping scandal that targeted several of Uribe’s political opponents, as well as labor leaders, journalists and academics. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #589

James Risen

James Risen

►►US lawmakers want audit of Colombia intelligence aid. Two US lawmakers on Wednesday requested the White House to scrutinize US assistance to Colombia’s intelligence agency DAS, after media reports that American money and training was used by the DAS for the illegal spying on government opponents.
►►Judge quashes subpoena to reporter in CIA leaker case. New York Times investigative reporter James Risen will not have to reveal the identity of his confidential source when he testifies in the criminal trial of Jeffrey Sterling, an alleged CIA leaker, a US federal judge recently held in a case involving the highest-profile journalist subpoena in recent years.
►►Ex-White House scientist pleads guilty in spy case tied to Israel. Stewart D. Nozette, a former senior government scientist who held the highest US security clearances, pleaded guilty to espionage on Wednesday and agreed to a 13-year prison term for selling top-secret information on military satellites and other technology to an FBI agent posing as an Israeli spy.

News you may have missed #580

Baroness Manningham-Buller

Manningham-Buller

►►Ex-MI5 director says Iraq posed not threat to UK. Iraq posed no threat to the UK when then Prime Minister Tony Blair took Britain to war there, according to Baroness Manningham-Buller, former Director of MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency. In an interview, she described the Iraq war as an unnecessary action that increased the domestic threat to the UK, and “a distraction from the pursuit of al-Qaeda”. No kidding.
►►Interview about DAS wiretaps with Colombia Attorney General. This blog has covered extensively the wiretapping program against opposition politicians, journalists and civil rights activists, by Colombia’s disgraced DAS domestic intelligence agency. This Washington Post interview with Colombia’s new attorney general, Vivian Morales, displays the toothless nature of the government’s ‘investigation’ into the scandal. Morales says that her investigation has “nothing to do” with allegations that the Colombian government used funds provided by Washington to implement the wiretapping. She also says that she cannot “legally investigate” the question of whether former President Alvaro Uribe knew about the wiretaps.
►►Taiwan losing spy game with China. The deputy news editor of The Taipei Times argues that the United States is scaling back its sales of defense equipment to Taiwan because of “the penetration of almost every sector of Taiwanese society by Chinese intelligence”. Accordingly, “any arms sale to Taiwan carries the risk that sensitive military technology will end up in Beijing”, he says.

News you may have missed #575

IARPA logo

IARPA logo

►►Inquest into death of MI6 spy to go ahead. The inquest into the bizarre death of MI6 and GCHQ officer Gareth Williams will go ahead before Christmas without a jury, according to London-based newspaper The Express. The paper says that “12 spy chiefs will attend [the inquest] to explain the background to the case”.
►►Colombia’s ex-president denies role in spy scandal. Alvaro Uribe has denied, during a 3½-hour appearance before a Colombian congressional committee, that he ordered the country’s domestic intelligence agency to spy on judges, journalists and political foes. More than 20 agents of the DAS intelligence agency have been imprisoned for alleged roles in the spying. Two more have pleaded guilty in exchange for reduced sentences.
►►US spy research firm eyes stock market. IARPA, the US intelligence community’s research arm, plans to introduce a new program to develop tools to help analysts “quickly and accurately assess petabytes of complex anonymized financial data”. According to a conference presentation, the program would help spies “analyze massive amounts of data to spot indicators of market behavior, find relationships between seemingly unrelated transactions across hundreds of global markets, and provide insight into specific events and general financial trends”.