Colombia, Intelligence and Security
Colombia emerged as an independent nation in 1830, following the collapse of Spanish rule in the region, then known as Gran Colombia. Large-landowning and military interests alternately dominated the nation's politics, causing long-standing political tension. In the 1960s, political extremists and paramilitary insurgent groups began attacking government interests in the capital. The conflict escalated in the 1990s, destabilizing the Colombian government and allowing areas of the countryside to fall to guerilla control. Violence and sporadic fighting continue to be endemic in the nation, but the government restructured intelligence, police, and military forces to combat the problem.
Colombia's main intelligence service is the National Intelligence Service (SIN). The SIN coordinates civilian intelligence efforts, including those of subsidiary departments such as counter-intelligence, anti-terrorism, and surveillance forces. SIN operations cover both domestic and foreign intelligence, but focus on combating political insurgency and threats to national security. The agency works with the Colombian National Police to investigate criminal activities related to drug cartels or paramilitary groups, as well as instances of government corruption.
The Department of Administrative Security (DAS) works to protect government officials and buildings. The DAS also conducts limited counter-espionage operations to ensure the safety and security of government information and communication systems.
Military intelligence in Colombia is the responsibility of the army and the Intelligence Department (F-2). Military intelligence assesses external threats to Colombian national security, and conducts surveillance of paramilitary and rebel groups within national borders.
After a series of constitutional reforms in the early 1990s, the Colombian government began negotiations with leftist rebel and right-wing paramilitary groups. The government in Bogotá ceded control of some remote areas to opposition control, but the transfers of power did little to abate continued violence. The government continues to use intelligence and security forces for both anti-paramilitary operations and political espionage with some success. Creation of the Anti-Kidnapping Squad has reduced the number of government officials, journalists, and foreign businesspeople taken by insurgent forces who seek to intimidate the government or extract ransom payments.
In the midst of political chaos, the presence and influence of drug trafficking rings, cartels, and crime syndicates has increased in Colombia and throughout the surrounding region. The Colombian government has pledged support to international efforts to reduce the cultivation, production, and trafficking of illicit drugs. With the aid of the United States, and other nations, Colombia patrols its countryside with aerial surveillance, has implemented tighter security in its ports, and begun a campaign to seize illegal funds and halt money laundering operations.
█ FURTHER READING:
Central Intelligence Agency. "Colombia" CIA World
Factbook < http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/geos/co.html > (April 8, 2003).