EL ESPECTADOR, May 1, 2020

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

That’s the way Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo announced it, just before SEMANA magazine published new discoveries of “profiling” of journalists, politicians, and representatives of NGO’s. In some cases they were also pursuing the sources used by a number of journalists.

Carlos Holmes Trujillo, Minister of Defense, confirmed this Friday that eleven Colombian Army officers were removed from their positions and a Brigadier General had requested voluntary retirement because of the “wiretapping” scandal orchestrated through Army Intelligence. “Respectful of the investigation processes, and so as to be able to guarantee due process and the presumption of innocence, the Colombian Army confirms that it will take immediate action based on the decisions that the legal and control entities will be making,” stated the high official this May 1 from the Advanced War College.

In SEMANA’s edition for this weekend, it published other aspects of this investigation. According to the magazine, after Nicholas Casey, then-correspondent of The New York Times in Colombia, revealed the Army directives that could mean a return to the “false positives”, that reporter became an objective for Military Intelligence. In addition to him, a series of communicators, politicians, and defenders of human rights were objects for what the military institution called “special work.”

Among the victims, says SEMANA, are the Director of Human Rights Watch, José Miguel Vivanco; the National Public Radio correspondent, John Otis; Juan Forero of the Wall Street Journal; reporters from Time;  Lynsey Addario and María Alejandra Villamizar of Noticias Caracol; the Director of RCN Radio, Yolanda Ruiz; the Director of Univisión, Daniel Coronell; the Deputy Director of Noticias Uno, Ignacio Gómez; the Data Unit Editor of El Tiempo, Ginna Morelo; as well as journalists of La Liga Contra el Silencio (League Against Silence); members of the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers Collective; and of labor unions such as the General Workers Federation (CGT in Spanish); among many others. In several cases, the “special work” went far beyond profiling, and the Army, assures the magazine, even tried to find out who the communicators’ sources were.

In the same way, in the more than 130 profilings that SEMANA complains of, there are files on political figures such as the Senators Gustavo Bolívar, Angélica Lozano, and Antonio Sanguino. But, according to the magazine, ex-Vice Minister of Defense Jorge Mario Eastman was also the object of these pursuits. The name calls for attention because according to La Silla Vacía, Eastman mediated with SEMANA to get them to shelve the investigation of the directives that would have revived the policy of “false positives”. The article was finally published in The New York Times.

As SEMANA reported in January of this year, during 2019 the Army had ordered multiple interceptions of communications without any kind of order or legal justification. Among the victims of those actions were Senator Roy Barreras of the U Party; Camilo Romero, ex-Governor of Nariño Province; and Cristina Lombana, Justice of the Instruction (Investigation) Branch of the Supreme Court. The illegal wiretaps would have been made from two garrisons, one in Catam and the other in the Communications Department in Facatativá.

According to what Minister Trujillo said this Friday, because of these events, the High Command of the Armed Forces has opened disciplinary investigations, and he has also ordered the Army’s Inspector General to open a case. At the same time, he called upon Colombia’s Inspector General and Attorney General’s Office to do the same. “The Armed Forces have and will always have the support of Colombians as long as they continue to act with transparency. That is the source of their legitimacy. That transparency includes always being disposed as an institution to collaborate with the authorities,” said the Minister.

The Minister said that for now he would not be releasing the names of the officials who were relieved, nor the name of the General who requested retirement. “Respectful of the investigation processes and, in order to guarantee due process and the presumption of innocence, the Colombian Army confirms that it will take immediate action in accord with the decisions that may be adopted by the legal and control entities,” he stated in his declaration. In addition, he said that “Colombians can be sure that the decisions adopted will not affect military operations, and, on the contrary, their goal will be to reinforce the institutional structure and guarantee security and tranquility in every region of the country.”

After the scandal broke, beginning on January 13, the Minister, accompanied by the Commander of the Armed Forces, General Luis Fernando Navarro, and the incoming Commander of the Army, Eduardo Zapateiro, announced an audit of the intelligence system aimed at eliminating any illegal conduct. That process, stated General Navarro this Friday, has been completed, after “the active participation of more than a hundred experts in military intelligence, with the accompaniment of national and international validators.” The high official added that in the improvement process, “there was special emphasis on reviewing techniques, tactics, and procedures for the betterment of the strict protocols that will guarantee the security of information. It will be important to strengthen human talent, allowing us to select the men and women best suited for service to their country. In this review committee, numerous measures for control, both human and technical, have been implemented. The goal is to minimize the possibility of inappropriate activities that affect the good name of the institution, the rights of the citizens, or are contrary to intelligence law.”

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