Page last updated at 23:59 GMT, Saturday, 21 February 2009

Colombia police in wiretap probe

By Jeremy McDermott
BBC News, Medellin

Alvaro Uribe (file pic)
Colombia's secret police has lurched from scandal to scandal under Mr Uribe

Colombia's secret police is under investigation over claims rogue agents may have intercepted phone calls and passed on information to criminals.

Magistrates, politicians, officials and journalists may have had phones tapped.

It is the latest scandal to hit the Department of Administrative Security - or DAS, as the secret police are known - under President Alvaro Uribe.

One ex-DAS director is accused of giving right-wing death squads the names of suspected rebel sympathisers.

Felipe Munoz has been the DAS director for just a month, and is now in the middle of a scandal even worse than that which cost the job of his predecessor - although not quite as bad as one that put another former director in prison.

Too corrupt to reform?

A special squad has been set up to investigate the wire-tapping allegations.

The DAS has been at the centre of corruption scandals since Mr Uribe took over in 2002 and appointed Jorge Noguera, one of his campaign managers and a man with no intelligence experience, as director.

Mr Noguera resigned in 2005 amid accusations he was working with right-wing paramilitary death squads.

He has been imprisoned and the case is awaiting trial.

Maria Pilar Hurtado was forced to resign as director last October after it was revealed the DAS was spying on opponents of the president.

There have been calls for the DAS to be disbanded. A ministry of defence source said that the organisation was so corrupt that it could not be reformed.

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