Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos announced the dissolution of the country’s troubled intelligence agency, DAS, which has been implicated in a number of scandals, from illegal wiretapping to ties with paramilitary groups.
In October alone, agents from the Administrative Department of Security (DAS) were implicated in a scheme which involved the sale of intelligence to drug trafficking organizations. Colombian newsweekly Semana gained access to the leaked documents, and revealed that the agency had trained paramilitaries in the use of explosives, and helped orchestrate a car bomb targeting a prominent politician during the administration of Santos’ predecessor, Alvaro Uribe.
Uribe’s first DAS director, Jorge Noguera, was convicted of murder on September 14 after the Supreme Court found him guilty of involvement in the 2004 killing of a leftist university professor.
The intelligence functions of the bureau will be passed on to a new agency, to be known as the National Intelligence Agency (ANI), by December 31. The current and final DAS director, Felipe Muñoz, has claimed that the goal of this process is to “move towards a new institution with better checks and more respect for human rights,” but the effect of the DAS’s liquidation on the state of human rights in the country remains to be seen.
As the AP notes, the president did not mention how employees would be screened for possible criminal involvement before being assigned new positions. This is especially troubling considering that about half of the DAS’s employees will be transferred to the chief prosecutor’s office, where they will oversee criminal investigations.
The announcement has been met with strong resistance from the intelligence community. Francy Villegas, director of the Syndical Association of State Security Servants (ASES), told RCN yesterday that Santos’ bid to alter the DAS is unconstitutional, claiming that the Attorney General had signaled that there is “sufficient evidence to suggest the existence of a flaw in the fulfillment of this act.” If the process continues, Villegas warned, the president may face a Supreme Court order to reverse it.
This article originally appeared on the Pan-American Post.