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Narco News 2001

CIA Chief Admits to US Senate:

Plan Colombia Futility

Drug Traffic "Spillover" to Other Countries

Tenet: "I don't know" about paramilitaries

February 12, 2001

"These cartels and the money involved will simply move into these other places"

By Al Giordano

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency director George Tenet admitted to the US Senate Intelligence Committee last week that even if the $1.3 billion US-backed Plan Colombia achieves the success against cocaine crops that has eluded it so far, that the drug traffic would merely "spill over" into Colombia's neighboring countries.

Tenet, who served under the Democratic administration of Clinton and continues in that post under the new Republican administration of Bush, also told Senators on February 7th that he does not know whether there are connections between Colombia military officials and violent paramilitary squads that, in recent weeks, have increased the frequency of massacres against unarmed civilians. "I don't know," said Tenet, "off the top of my head."

During the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Illinois), noted his own recent travels to the Andean region as he questioned the CIA director.

"Interesting to me," said the Senator, "when we started on Plan Columbia how lukewarm the rest of South America was about that idea. How do you explain that?"

"Part of it's us, part of it's our involvement," answered Tenet. "But the truth is, they're going to be a lot -- they're going to pay a lot more attention because of the spillover, the potential spillover out of Colombia. As you -- if, as we make progress against the FARC and the drug trafficking organizations, which is our primary motivation, it's going to spill over into those countries."

The CIA director added, "this amoeba will just migrate, migrate out as you do this. And while production numbers of cocaine for Peru and Bolivia are down this year compared to Colombia -- Colombia is still rising -- those countries are not immune from a resuscitation of all that, notwithstanding the important work that they've done in trying to stop the drug flow. But these cartels and the money involved will simply move into these other places."

Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan) asked Tenet a direct question about US intelligence regarding Colombian military alliances with the violent paramilitary organizations that recently have stepped up massacres of unarmed civilians in Colombia. "Do we believe," asked Levin, "that the army, or elements of the army have, in effect, quietly, behind-the-scenes, allied themselves with the private forces of the cartels to combat the growing strength of that insurgency? Are they still doing it?"

Tenet replied: "Well, we know historically there have been linkages between the army and paramilitaries."

Levin followed up: "Do they exist now?"

"You know," answered the director of the largest governmental intelligence agency on earth. "I'll have to get you an answer. I mean, we still look at that very carefully but I don't know. I can't -- off the top of my head, Senator, it is something that we are concerned with…."

Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), chairman of the Intelligence Committee, closed the hearing by expressing his doubts about Plan Colombia. "Director Tenet, you know that Senator Hollings and I were just in Colombia, Peru and Bolivia," he explained. "And I can tell you, going to Colombia was sobering because we both, as members of the Appropriations Committee and the Senate, had supported the Colombia plan, the initiative there."

"It seems to me," added Shelby, "just being there for a while, that perhaps they've lost their fight to control their own country. They have lost, as you well know and just described, much of their territory, and not just in the rural areas but, you know, every -- people are scared. They're scared to speak out in a legislative body. You just about have anarchy there."

"And it concerns me, and I've told the defense minister and I told the other people there that, you know, they can't expect us to do their fighting for them. We can help them, but they first have got to have a purpose, to control their own country." Shelby concluded, "And I don't believe they have it today."


A longer transcript of the February 7th Senate Intelligence Committee hearing is available from the COLOMBIAN LABOR MONITOR at - we subscribe to CLM's mailing list.

Spillover of the Facts