Judge orders CIA to release files on drug kingpin Pablo Escobar

Pablo EscobarBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In the late 1980s, it was nearly impossible to sit through a primetime news bulletin without coming across the name ‘Pablo Escobar’. Born in 1949 in the town of Rionegro, Colombia, Escobar rose to become the leader of the Medellín cartel, history’s most notorious narcotics smuggling ring. By 1986, the Medellín cartel controlled over 80 percent of the global cocaine market, shipping daily around 15 tons of the drug (worth an estimated street value of $500,000) to the United States. In 1989, Forbes magazine included Escobar on his list of the world’s richest persons, with an estimated net worth of $3 billion. By that time, the Medellín cartel had become powerful enough to directly threaten the very institutional integrity of the Colombian state. At the same time, Escobar carefully cultivated his ‘Robin Hood’ image by regularly building hospitals, schools, and churches in some of Colombia’s most impoverished regions. He was thus able to surround himself with a sea of grateful and devoted supporters, who directly depended on his generosity for their livelihood. They also shielded him from the reach of the Colombian and United States government forces, which repeatedly went after him without success. Eventually, the Colombian government, in association with the US Drug Enforcement Administration and the Central Intelligence Agency, managed to stop Escobar by creating a rival organization called Los PEPES —a Spanish-language acronym that stands for ‘People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar’. Los PEPES, which consisted of members of rival drug smuggling cartels, as well as trained mercenaries belonging to Colombian rightwing militias, went after Escobar’s closest associates with indescribable ruthlessness. They hunted down and eventually tortured and killed several of his relatives, advisors and bodyguards. Ultimately, in 1993, they helped the Colombian National Police corner Escobar and shoot him dead at a Medellín barrio. The celebrations in Washington and Bogotá didn’t last long; as soon as Los PEPES disbanded, many of its leading members regrouped to found the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a rightwing paramilitary group that has since killed thousands of civilians in Colombia’s bitter civil war. The AUC, which funds its operations through kidnappings and drug trafficking, is today a designated terrorist group by most Western governments, including the United States and the European Union. Read more of this post

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News you may have missed #467

  • Ex-Mossad chief says Iran nuke program behind schedule. Meir Dagan, Israel’s recently retired spy chief, thinks Iran will not be able to build a nuclear bomb before 2015, further pushing back Israeli intelligence estimates on the subject. Time for critics of the 2007 US National Intelligence Estimate to reconsider their views?
  • NSA breaks ground on Utah cybersecurity center. Ground was broken last Thursday on the Utah Data Center, a $1.2 billion, 1 million-square-foot cybersecurity center being built for the US National Security Agency at Camp Williams, near Salt Lake City. Secrecy is expected to shroud the center, with the groundbreaking being one of the public’s last chances to take an open look at the project.
  • Colombian judge orders arrest of ex-spy chief. Colombia’s Prosecutor General has ordered the arrest of Jorge Noguera, a former director of the country’s DAS intelligence agency, for his alleged involvement in the spying on government opponents. This is not the first time Noguera, who was director of the DAS between 2002 and 2006, has been sent to jail. He was imprisoned and released twice for his alleged involvement in allowing members of paramilitary organization United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia to infiltrate the intelligence agency.

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  • Colombian paramilitaries active in Honduras. United Nations human rights officials have voiced concern at reports that right-wing paramilitaries from the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia are active in Honduras following the military coup. Last September it was revealed that the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia also participated in the planning of the failed 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela.
  • Lawsuit probes US government spying on GTMO attorneys. In Wilner v. National Security Agency, the Washington DC-based Center for Constitutional Rights argued on Friday that the US government must disclose whether it has records related to wiretapping of Guantánamo attorney conversations without a warrant.
  • France arrests CERN worker with alleged al-Qaeda links. France has arrested a researcher at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) for suspected links with the al-Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb (al-Qaeda’s North African wing). CERN, Europe’s particle physics lab, is known for a particle collider that aims to recreate conditions of the Big Bang.

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Colombian ex-spy details coup plot against Venezuela

Rafael García

Rafael García

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The former director of information technology at Colombia’s Administrative Department of Security (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad, or DAS) has revealed details of what he claims was a Colombian-assisted coup against the Venezuelan government. Speaking on Colombia’s Noticias Uno television station, former DAS official Rafael García said the Colombian government of Álvaro Uribe was the main supporter of a 2004 attempt to topple the Venezuelan government of Hugo Chávez. García, who was fired from DAS three years ago, after being caught taking bribes from right wing paramilitaries and drug barons, said Colombia recruited 120 Colombian paramilitary members of Northern Bloc, a militia unit of the right-wing United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, which operates mostly along the Venezuelan-Colombian border. Read more of this post