Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Colombia to Dismantle Spy Agency

NYT/September 19, 2009

BOGOTÁ, Colombia (AP) — Amid a scandal involving illegal spying on government critics, Colombia’s domestic intelligence agency will be dismantled and a new agency will be set up to focus on intelligence and counterintelligence work involving national security, the agency’s director said Friday.

The director, Felipe Muñoz, said the majority of the current agency’s 6,000 employees would be transferred to the criminal investigative unit of the police and other investigative bodies.

On Thursday, President Álvaro Uribe said for the first time that he favored eliminating the spy agency, known as the DAS. He previously spoke of the need to restructure the troubled department.

The agency has been enmeshed in controversy over accusations that it used wiretaps to spy on government critics, judges and journalists. Mr. Uribe’s government, the United States’ main ally in South America, denied ordering the wiretaps.

Mr. Muñoz said the adminsitration would submit legislation to the Colombian Congress to authorize the president “to eliminate the present structure” of the agency. He said a new department would take over intelligence and counterintelligence.

The domestic spy agency was created in 1953 and reconstructed as the DAS in 1960. The wiretapping scandal involved allegations of illegal surveillance of human rights activists, reporters and magistrates of the Supreme Court of Justice. Mr. Uribe’s first DAS director, Jorge Noguera, is in prison awaiting trial on charges including murder; he is accused of helping right-wing death squads assassinate three union leaders and a sociologist.