COLOMBIA ANALYSIS: U.S. intelligence and the Colombian “Chuzada” Scandal


21 January 2010
COLOMBIA ANALYSIS: U.S. intelligence and the Colombian
“Chuzada” Scandal

 by Eloy García

Recently in Colombia, a politician inadvertently mentioned that
a scandal known as a “chuzada” has links to the U.S. intelligence services. (1)
 “Chuzada” is a colloquial term for
the illegal interception of telephone, internet, and various other
communications by the Colombian intelligence agency, which commentators often
compare to the Nixon/Watergate scandal. 
However, critics claim the illegal Colombian chuzadas are a much larger
and better orchestrated than Watergate was.  These state criminal actions are much more in the line of the
infamous U.S. COINTELPRO projects. 
In Colombia, the illegal intercepts have been used to spy on journalists, human
rights workers, judges, and any other perceived threat to the national security
state.  (3)
What the government does not say publicly is that U.S. Intelligence has been
directly involved and is arguably the principal authority in the whole chuzada
scandal since the implementation of a secret U.S. intelligence program called
“Centra Spike.”  (4)

According to The Secret War by William M. Arkin, in 1981 the
U.S. Army created an organization that could collect clandestine intelligence
independent of the rest of the U.S. intelligence community and follow through
with covert military action—the Intelligence Support Activity, or ISA.  (5)
Accordingly, this unit, with a reputation for lawlessness, fought in drug wars
and counter-terror operations through South America.  Mark Bowden in his book Killing Pablo describes how
“Centra Spike” – the codename for the ISA eavesdropping unit in
Colombia— began operations in 1989, listening in on radio and telephone
conversations.  At their disposal
was the most sophisticated eavesdropping equipment owned by the United States.  Bowden also notes that many of the
eavesdroppers were U.S.-trained Colombian soldiers.  (6)
Bowden documents that for years Colombia has accepted specialized military
training and eavesdropping assistance, but that serious political consequences
would result if this presence ever became public.  (7)

“Centra Spike” worked directly with and shared
intelligence with Los Pepes in the ruthless lawless search for Pablo Escobar.  Los Pepes were a U.S. and Colombian government-created paramilitary death squad
led by assassins and drug runners Fidel and Carlos Castaño. The connection between U.S. intelligence institutions, paramilitary death
squads, and illegal eavesdropping of Colombian citizens is not a secret.  Colombian congressional investigators
are nearing the conclusion that most other critics of U.S. and Colombian
government human rights violations have already realized: the U.S. State Department
started the illegal eavesdropping of private communications years ago through
the operations of “Centra Spike” and has maintained this type of
espionage in order to protect its imperial interest in the region.

Just as in the past, former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe
continued to abuse the illegal intelligence gathering for further illegal
activities in his attempt to quash all opposition to his “democratic
security state.”

In a 12 August 2010 newspaper article in Colombia’s La Vanguardia Liberal,
Colombian Senator Juan Manuel Galan denounced irregularities regarding the
purchase of intelligence equipment between the DAS—the Colombian intelligence
agency equivalent to the United States CIA and FBI—and a U.S. military
contractor, Phoenix Worldwide industries. 
In the contract, seven vehicles called “intelligence
platforms” were acquired for eavesdropping and surveillance operations for
$3.2 million dollars.  The U.S.
intelligence agencies and U.S. State Department acted as intermediaries in the
sale of the secret equipment.

Haugaard, Lisa; Nicholls, Kelly; Poe, Abigail; Sánchez-Garzoli, Gimena . “Far
Worse Than Watergate,” Center for International Policy, Latin America
Working Group Education Fund, Washington Office on Latin America.

The chuzada scandal like the US COINTELprogram also includes government dirty
tricks and espionage operations, in this case used to discredit NGOs, foreigners
working for peace and justice in the country, and many others.

See The Secret
War  by William M.
, published in the Los Angeles Times on 27 October 2002;
Bowden, Mark Killing Pablo: the hunt for the worlds greatest outlaw 2001; Secret
Warriors: Inside the Covert Military Operations of the Reagan Era by Steven

Arkin, “The Secret War.”

Bowden,  78.

Bowden , 138.




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