BOGOTA (AP) - Colombia's new domestic spy chief said Saturday that he is probing allegations his agency eavesdropped on Supreme Court judges, prominent journalists and opposition leaders.
Felipe Munoz, who took over the troubled DAS domestic intelligence agency last month, was reacting to a report by Colombia's leading newsmagazine of widespread interception of phone calls and e-mail by agency officials at least through late last year.
"This is a mafia network that's threatening the security of the state, Munoz told a news conference called after the report was published online.
Munoz, who answers directly to President Alvaro Uribe, said the
wiretapping was not government policy. However, the newsmagazine
Semana quoted five unnamed DAS officials in its story and said the
executive branch was the primary beneficiary of the intelligence obtained through the illegal eavesdropping.
Munoz said he was organizing a special unit to investigate the
The DAS, or Department of Administrative Security, has been plagued by scandal under Uribe. His first director, Jorge Noguera, is in jail on criminal conspiracy charges for allegedly colluding with right-wing death squads, including providing them with lists of union activists to possibly target for assassination.
And Munoz's immediate predecessor, Maria del Pilar Hurtado, resigned after opposition Sen. Gustavo Petro obtained a letter signed by one of her deputies that ordered DAS agents spy on him.
Petro is one of the alleged DAS eavesdropping targets named by Semana and accused Uribe on Saturday of ordering the interceptions.
"It's the president who persecutes the opposition and the free press," he told the AP.
Uribe did not immediately respond to the accusations.
He was holding a day-long communal council meeting, a Saturday ritual for him, in the Pacific coast town of Buenaventura.
Wiretapping scandals are nothing unusual or new in Colombia. All the country's illegal armed groups - drug traffickers, paramilitaries and rebels - regularly engage in it as well as foreign intelligence services.
In May 2007, Colombia's police chief and the head of police intelligence were forced to retire over the illegal interception of calls of opposition political figures, journalists and members of the government.
Associated Press writer Frank Bajak contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)