Colombia’s military has been shaken by spy allegations that reached all the way to the office of President Alvaro Uribe.

On Friday, 11 senior officials were sacked and a senior general was forced to resign over an ongoing investigation into allegations that the Colombian military illegally spied on journalists,  politicians, opposition politicians, Supreme Court magistrates and other military members.

The investigation by the Attorney General’s office began in January after the news magazine Semana published a scathing report. According to the report, members of the Administrative Department of Security (DAS), were reportedly spying on officials since as far back as the 2016 peace negotiations with the FARC rebels.

Semana alleges that the accounts of more than 130 people, including foreign and domestic journalists, had been hacked and their personal information collected, including data on their family members. According to the magazine, some of the spying also targeted Iranian Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Shirin Ebadi, and Human Rights Watch’s director for the Americas, Jose Miguel Vivanco.

The ongoing probe is looking into several former directors of the DAS security service and more than a dozen other former or current officials at that agency. The Inspector General’s office has called both Supreme Court Justice Jaime Arrubia and President Alvaro Uribe to testify as witnesses. 

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Photo of President Alvaro Uribe (Television screenshot).

Leftist presidential candidate Gustavo Petro — who was one of the targets of the spying operation — and current DAS Director Felipe Muñoz have also been called as witnesses. Part of the probe is centering on Uribe’s Chief of Staff, Bernardo Moreno, and two other senior aides to Uribe, including Moreno’s predecessor, Maria del Pilar Hurtado.

None of the ousted officials have yet been identified. Τhis investigation has deep implications if the level of illegal spying and wiretapping goes further, as many expect it will.

“Today 11 officials will be removed from their posts and retired from active service, also a brigadier general has asked to be voluntarily removed from active service,” Trujillo said at a news conference.

Thus far, there are 18 either active or retired DAS officials, including four of its directors, under investigation in connection with the spying and wiretapping allegations.

President Uribe has repeatedly stated that he never instructed DAS to conduct illegal wiretaps, but witnesses in the probe have testified to the Attorney General that the orders to spy on these targets came straight from the presidential palace.

Supreme Court Justice Arrubia was called to testify to clarify on how the spying was conducted, who else was affected, and how the court magistrates learned that they too were being spied upon. Investigators want Uribe to explain how this information from the spying was handled as well as how DAS, which answers to the president, was conducting this operation.