America’s Covert War in Colombia Encourages Human Rights Abuses And Is Probably Illegal

John Glaser, December 30, 2013
Vice President Joe Biden meets with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in Bogota, Colombia in May 2013

Vice President Joe Biden meets with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in Bogota, Colombia in May 2013

The CIA and JSOC are engaged in a covert war in Colombia that involves intelligence cooperation and help in carrying out an assassination campaign against domestic rebels with U.S.-provided “smart bombs,” according to an investigative report from the Washington Post‘s Dana Priest.

“The secret assistance, which also includes substantial eavesdropping help from the National Security Agency, is funded through a multibillion-dollar black budget [that] is not a part of the public $9 billion package of mostly U.S. military aid,” Priest writes.

The covert program in Colombia provides two essential services to the nation’s battle against the FARC and a smaller insurgent group, the National Liberation Army (ELN): Real-time intelligence that allows Colombian forces to hunt down individual FARC leaders and, beginning in 2006, one particularly effective tool with which to kill them.

That weapon is a $30,000 GPS guidance kit that transforms a less-than-accurate 500-pound gravity bomb into a highly accurate smart bomb. Smart bombs, also called precision-guided munitions or PGMs, are capable of killing an individual in triple-canopy jungle if his exact location can be determined and geo-coordinates are programmed into the bomb’s small computer brain.

Priest’s report, which is a must-read, explains that the CIA and JSOC “target the FARC leadership” in “exactly” the same way they “had been doing against al-Qaeda on the other side of the world.”

“Most every operation relied heavily on NSA signal intercepts,” Priest notes.

One key difference between the war on al-Qaeda and the war on FARC is that there isn’t anybody in the world who would argue that FARC presents even the remotest threat to the United States of America. That brings up ideological questions – like, why are we secretly fighting a war against insurgents in Colombia that have nothing to do with us – but it also brings up legal questions. Priest:

It was one thing to use a PGM [precision guided missile] to defeat an enemy on the battlefield — the U.S. Air Force had been doing that for years. It was another to use it to target an individual FARC leader. Would that constitute an assassination, which is prohibited by U.S. law? And, “could we be accused of engaging in an assassination, even if it is not ourselves doing it?” said one lawyer involved.

It is also reported that the U.S.’s targeted assassination program in Colombia has spilled over the border into a third-party sovereign, Ecuador, which has implications for international law. Of course, the White House legal advisers decided the covert program was legal because the FARC are considered terrorists and “an ongoing threat to Colombia.” Big surprise.

What Priest completely omits from her report is the overall damage to human rights caused by U.S. support for the Colombian government. A whole host of abuses are correlated with U.S. support.

Right-wing paramilitary groups with close ties to the Colombian government rampage throughout the country with impunity thanks to an accommodative police force. These para-military groups “regularly commit massacres, killings, forced displacement, rape, and extortion, and create a threatening atmosphere in the communities they control” often targeting “human rights defenders, trade unionists, victims of the paramilitaries who are seeking justice, and community members who do not follow their orders,”according to Human Rights Watch.

Colombian soldiers, many of whom are trained by the U.S., have been implicated in a string of atrocities over the years referred to as “false positives,” in which U.S.-backed forces kill civilians and dress them up as rebels in order to score points with an army policy that rewarded high body counts. The Prosecutor General’s human right’s team investigated “more than 1,200 cases of extrajudicial executions,” prompting the then-U.N. Special Rapporteur Philip Alston to write in 2009 that “the sheer number of cases, their geographic spread, and the diversity of military units implicated, indicate that these killings were carried out in a more or less systematic fashion by significant elements within the military.” Laws have been passed to try and avoid prosecution of these crimes.

Other scandals involving widespread illegal spying on innocent civilians, journalists and human rights workers, undoubtedly with help from U.S. intelligence agencies, have resulted in international condemnation of Colombian political leaders up to and including presidential administrations.

Yet again, the U.S. is meddling in a domestic conflict in a foreign country that has nothing to do with U.S. security. And yet again, nefarious U.S. support for this foreign government is encouraging incredible human rights abuses and shielding the perpetrators from accountability. And yet again, Americans don’t know anything about it.




20 Responses to “America’s Covert War in Colombia Encourages Human Rights Abuses And Is Probably Illegal”

  1. "why are we secretly fighting a war against insurgents in Colombia that have nothing to do with us…?"

    Same reason the USA has been doing this since its inception, kicked into high gear since 1945: to install and support governments that keep poor people in their place so they and their resources can be robbed by US international corporations.

    Most of the democracies the USA has overthrown (over 30) have been in Latin America. We can look at every single case, as William Blum does in "Rogue State"; they're all the same. The USA is an authoritarian empire with fascist satellites put and kept in place to rob other countries and enrich itself.

    Obama is doing this as we speak. No "cold war". The terrorist Obama supported a fascist military coup in Honduras in 2009 to overthrow their democracy and replace it with an authoritarian military dictatorship that has reversed all the social gains won back by the population after decades of US-backed authoritarianism, and Obama's supporting the dictatorship there to this day, in defiance of the whole world. Like all US imperialists, he hates democracy (control by the people). He is democracy's antithesis.

    More info and details, and a list of more of Obama's depravities: http://empireslayer.blogspot.com/2013/11/obama-su

  2. Thanks for the report. Yea I too find myself thinking the U.S. government is STILL fighting a covert war in Columbia, oh good grief. Nothing changes.

  3. Glaser is 100 percent wrong. The FARC is a vicious gang of murderers, rapists, kidnappers, drug traffickers and terrorists detested by 99 percent of the Colombian population. These Communist thugs have killed or kidnapped dozens of Americans and other foreignersn not to mention thousands of innocent Colombians. Shame on Anti-War for publishing that rubbish.

  4. […] Antiwar.com (blog) […]

  5. Mr. Glaser: Thank you for this totally true article, it would be interesting if the American people would know about this situation, but leave up to the Corporate media to twist things around. Only peaceful nations such as in Scandanavia for example, know and get the accumulative benefits of peace, since is much more interesting to built than to destroy; If true peace would come to Colombia, Colombia it self would go into a cycle of creativity and progress that would perhaps be, much more beneficial to the United States than this bloody war.

  6. Drones. Coming soon to an insurgency near you. Unless of course the insurgents resort to carrier pigeons.

  7. The USA has always interfered in the affairs of other nations. It supports Colombia's government because its an enemy o Venezuela and many other Latin American nations. It also kisses Israel's ass like the USA does. It supports Colombia's government to control drug trafficking although that doesn't always work.

  8. Who owns(Terrorize) the earth: WH chevron-Visa-X and it's salesmen.

    is Arabia for the arab sheeps or Arab Muslims !!!

  9. Hello, I am visiting Colombia right now. It's incredible how safe this country has become and developed. These "rebels" are the only thing that threaten the stability of this fragile country, which had a very violent past. It is safe to walk the streets in most cities and the only threat to public safety is the rebels. Instead of writing about this from the safety of your first world homes, why don't you come over to Colombia and check it out for yourselves.

  10. […] However, recent revelations about the CIA’s role in Colombia show that bombing …America’s Covert War in Colombia Encourages Human Rights Abuses And Is …Antiwar.com (blog)CIA waging covert war in ColombiaPress TVCIA covert action in Colombia […]

  11. Parts of Colombia are incredibly beautiful. I lived in Colombia for 4 years and taught at the Centro Colombo Americano in Bogota in the late 60s. I was director of courses at the Colombo in Cartagena fort a year. In 1966 a bomb placed in a trash can in the women 's bathroom at the Centro Colombo Americano in Bogotga while I was there killed 6 people, including one Americ an. I had just passed the blast are 2 or three minutes before. Leaving the building I had to pass the bodies of the dead. Sobered by the experience, I proposed to my wife from Falan, Colombia 3 days later. We have been married for 47 years and have lived in Tehran, The Congo (Kinshasa), and Yogyakarta, Indonesia. ,,, Colombia has gotten very expensive since we lived there. A cheaper place to live is David, Panama, where my wife and I have been 3 or four times. Two other inexpensive places are India and Vietnam. A good friend, a fellow Defense Language Institute retiree, phoned me from India last week and told me a a stay at a nice first class hotel in Vietnam cost him 29 dollars a nightg. I know India is inexpensive since my wife have been there to see Sai Baba near Bangalore.

  12. Saudi Arabia is also very stable, thanks in part to US backing. The stability of course is due to iron-fisted US-backed fascism, which of course is designed to protect US imperial interests. That's why the USA does it. It's not a charity organization.

    The US has a biiiit of a record of doing this around the planet. I'll take independence over US-imposed imperial "stability" every time.

  13. What freedom? The freedom to run around the jungle with a gun like these rebels are doing and kill innocent people with no repercussions?

    Because the freedom people in Colombia enjoy is the freedom to wake up in the morning and go to work without fear, the freedom to speak their mind without fear, the only time the government steps in is when you form some rebel army and instead of voicing your concerns like everyone else, you harm innocent people.

  14. i really like it for information

  15. Because the freedom people in Colombia enjoy is the freedom to wake up in the morning and go to work without fear, the freedom to speak their mind without fear, the only time the government steps in is when you form some rebel army and instead of voicing your concerns like everyone else, you harm innocent people.

  16. What freedom? The freedom to run around the jungle with a gun like these rebels are doing and kill innocent people with no repercussions?

  17. Parts of Colombia are incredibly beautiful. I lived in Colombia for 4 years and taught at the Centro Colombo Americano in Bogota in the late 60s. I was director of courses at the Colombo in Cartagena fort a year. In 1966 a bomb placed in a trash can in the women 's bathroom at the Centro Colombo Americano in Bogotga while I was there killed 6 people, including one Americ an. I had just passed the blast are 2 or three minutes before. Leaving the building I had to pass the bodies of the dead. Sobered by the experience, I proposed to my wife from Falan, Colombia 3 days later. We have been married for 47 years and have lived in Tehran, The Congo (Kinshasa), and Yogyakarta, Indonesia. ,,, Colombia has gotten very expensive since we lived there.

  18. A good step towards protectionism of Human right, I do appreciate it.

  19. tanks in information
    you are really" good http://obatinfeksiuluhati.wordpress.com/

  20. Le agradezco, porque me encontré justo lo que estaba buscando. Que tengan un buen día. Adiós