Thursday, September 17, 2009

NYTimes on the Uribe Spy Scandal: Will Obama Raise Any Questions?

September 17, 2009

A Scandal Over Spying Intensifies in Colombia

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — President Álvaro Uribe, the top ally of the United States in Latin America, is enmeshed in a scandal over growing evidence that his main intelligence agency carried out an extensive illegal spying operation focused on his leading critics, including members of the Supreme Court, opposition politicians, human rights workers and journalists.

The scandal, which has unfolded over months, intensified in recent weeks with the disclosure of an audio intercept of a top official at the United States Embassy. Semana, a respected news magazine, obtained an intercept of a routine phone call between James Faulkner, the embassy’s legal attaché, and a Supreme Court justice investigating ties of Mr. Uribe’s political supporters to paramilitary death squads.

Other recordings obtained in investigations by journalists and prosecutors point to resilient multiyear efforts to spy on Mr. Uribe’s major critics by the Department of Administrative Security, a 6,500-employee intelligence agency — possibly South America’s largest — that operates directly under the authority of the president’s office.

The agency, known widely by the acronym DAS, has been the focus of accusations of illegal spying before. But this case is sowing fear among Mr. Uribe’s critics in the political elite, coming as the president, a conservative populist, presses ahead with a project to secure a third term.

While Mr. Uribe is ideologically isolated on a continent that has shifted to the left, he is following the example of neighbors who have changed their constitutions to remain in office, like Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chávez, and Ecuador’s, Rafael Correa.

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