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Exposed: The CIA's Clandestine Operations in Colombia

Washington Post investigation exposes 'multibillion dollar black budget' underlying CIA role in targeted killings, surveillance, torture

Sarah Lazare

Since the early 2000s, the CIA has been secretly helping the far-right Colombian government torture, spy on, and kill at least two dozen members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in a covert program with a "multibillion dollar black budget" approved by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, according to a Washington Post investigative report published Saturday.

Drawing on interviews with over 30 present and former U.S. and Colombian officials, most of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because the CIA operations are still ongoing, the report unearths a hidden program that dwarfs the public U.S. program "Plan Colombia," which began in 2001 and has funneled over $9 billion in mostly military aid to Colombia.

The secret assistance, separate from Plan Colombia, included supplying GPS equipment that transforms "that transforms a less-than-accurate 500-pound gravity bomb into a highly accurate smart bomb," and directly participating in their use to target alleged FARC leaders, according to the report.

It also included a fusion center in the U.S. embassy which monitored the jungle and intercepted radio and telephone communications, which were then "decrypted and translated by the National Security Agency," the report states. U.S. officials also helped the Colombian government develop its own intelligence gathering centers and informant program.

The so-called War on Terror colored these covert operations. The report notes that the "CIA also trained Colombian interrogators to more effectively question thousands of FARC deserters, without the use of the 'enhanced interrogation' techniques approved for use on al-Qaeda and later repudiated by Congress as abusive," the report states.

"Meanwhile, the other secret U.S. agency that had been at the forefront of locating and killing al-Qaeda arrived on the scene," the report reads. "Elite commandos from JSOC began periodic annual training sessions and small-unit reconnaissance missions to try to find the hostages."

William Wood, who was U.S. ambassador to Colombia from 2003 to 2007 before performing the same job in Afghanistan, said in an interview with the Washington Post, “There is no country, including Afghanistan, where we had more going on."

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