Colombian spy agency no longer to control wiretaps

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has said that he did not order any wiretaps.
Colombia’s domestic intelligence agency, which is embroiled in an illegal wiretap investigation, no longer will be directly in charge of electronic interceptions, President Alvaro Uribe said Thursday.

All wiretaps now will be under the control of the National Police, Uribe said at an early-morning news conference. The Administrative Department of Security, known by its Spanish acronym DAS, is under investigation over allegations that it illegally wiretapped judges, opposition politicians, members of the ruling party and journalists. “We will continue reform of DAS,” Uribe said. Electronic intelligence gathering will continue, Uribe said, but DAS will have to obtain a judge’s order and approval from the National Police. “The police will verify that the request contains all the legal documents, and then the interception will proceed,” Uribe said. The president sought to reassure Colombians that the National Police, which also had been accused of conducting illegal wiretaps, has made strenuous efforts to fix the problem. DAS Director Felipe Munoz will give a preliminary report on the investigation later Thursday, Uribe said. The public prosecutor and the attorney general also have initiated investigations, including inspections of the rooms where monitoring equipment was set up, prosecutor Mario Iguaran said. The spy agency’s deputy director of intelligence, Capt. Jorge Alberto Lagos, resigned this week over the scandal. The situation has potential political repercussions. “There are innumerable circumstances that lead one to think that this involves an organization well-orchestrated to — from the outside — hurt the prestige of the government of President Alvaro Uribe and the policy of democratic security,” said Bernardo Moreno, general secretary of the presidency. Uribe said earlier this week he did not order the wiretaps. Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos told CNN en EspaƱol that reporters with sources in DAS told him that he, his wife and his 12 ministers were among those whose conversations were monitored. For some analysts, the news does not bode well for Colombian democracy. “One has to arrive at the sad conclusion that it is a process identical to what the KGB used, when not only was the opposition being recorded, but so were some friends of the government,” said Miguel Maza Marquez, former director of the DAS.