SOFREP recently published a piece about the alleged spying by Colombia’s military against political opponents.
Semana, the magazine that broke the news, reported that, “In those missions, using computer tools and software, [the military] carried out searches and massively and indiscriminately collected all the information possible about their objectives to prepare military intelligence reports.”
Those computer tools and software were provided by the United States government for use against FARC and ELN guerrillas as well as narcotraffickers. But those tools were also used by the Colombian military against American citizens.
According to the Press Freedom Foundation (FLIP), the military compiled profiles of targeted journalists. The profiles included information on family, friends, sources, the journalists’ political leanings, and more, Some of those journalists included Nick Casey of the New York Times, Juan Forero of the Wall Street Journal, and John Otis of National Public Radio, (NPR). In Colombia, targets allegedly included María Alejandra Villamizar from Noticias Caracol.
The Colombians knew that this would anger Washington. One of the alleged spying participants said the following, which was posted in Colombia Reports:
“The Americans are not going to like that part of their own money, of their taxpayers as they say, has been diverted from the legitimate purposes for which it was given, the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking, ended up being used to dig into the lives of journalists of important media from their own country. This is going to be a mess.”
Once the Americans found out about the spying, they had the software and computer tools removed from the Colombian government offices.
The actions of General Luis Fernando Navarro, the chief of Colombia’s armed forces will now be scrutinized closely. Navarro vowed to get to the bottom of the very deep and ongoing spying scandal. He characterized the parties allegedly involved in the scandal as rogue elements within the country’s army.
Navarro and the military have already acted quickly by dismissing 11 officers who were involved in the illegal monitoring operation. They also forced a general to retire. Reports are surfacing that the general who was retired was Army Commander Nicacio Martínez. Once reports about Martinez came to light in Semana, the Attorney General’s Office “opened an investigation for the crimes of unlawful violation of communications and unlawful use of transmitting or receiving equipment, among other crimes.:
Martinez issued a statement through his attorneys denying all of the allegations of spying against journalists:
“I do not know if the events narrated by Semana Magazine in several of its publications have happened at another level in a hidden way. If I had known, I would have been the first to denounce. The only thing I am sure of is that if some act was committed in that sense it was not carried out by the Army as an institution, much less endorsed by its commander.”
“While I was Commander of the National Army, I never perceived or treated the media as enemies of the State or the Armed Forces,” the statement added.
The United States hasn’t made a statement on the affair but remains one of the most steadfast supporters of the Colombian government. But Washington can surely not be pleased that its own spyware was allegedly used against U.S. citizens.