“Intelligence Act Seeks to Protect the Population”: Ministry of Defense

“Intelligence Act Seeks to Protect the Population”: Ministry of Defense

By Dialogo
April 13, 2011

“Intelligence Act Seeks to Protect the Population”: Ministry of Defense

Defense Minister Rodrigo Rivera said on 12 April that the proposed Intelligence Act now making its way through the Congress of the Republic seeks to better protect citizens from criminal and terrorist threats, while also providing guarantees against any abuses that might occur in the course of that activity.

“The aim is to protect the population from the bandits, through intelligence that concentrates on discovering and neutralizing them, and also to defend the population from abuses, so that surveillance and intelligence activities are not deployed against targets unrelated to crime or to threats to the country’s security,” Rivera maintained during a session of the First Commission of the House of Representatives held to present and discuss the bill.

He added that another objective is to “protect intelligence agents who comply with the law, so that they can carry out their tasks with full immunity from any judicial or disciplinary dispute.”

According to the Minister, the bill aims to create a legal framework regulating the intelligence activities of all state institutions carrying out this task in the country, now or in the future.

The bill establishes “some specific purposes, an appropriate juridical framework, some limitations, an oversight mechanism, some checks, and a purging of the intelligence data itself” that is gathered by these entities, he stated.

And he added, “The law is going to give order to a process of purging all these databases, with checks and guarantees. The Public Prosecutor’s Office is going to head an interinstitutional commission for this purpose, so that there will be transparency, and there is also going to be oversight by the political parties.”

The high-ranking official emphasized that the initiative clearly establishes that no one may be included in these databases for reasons other than illegal activity.

“One concept that’s very clear is that no one can be in intelligence databases for reasons of race, sex, gender, ideological convictions, or membership in a party or organization of a legal nature, and that the only records that can be there are those that should be there because they refer to criminals or to individuals who really constitute a threat to public safety,” he affirmed.

Rivera Salazar underlined the fundamental role intelligence plays in the struggle to protect Colombians.

“In recent years, intelligence has been one of the major explanations for the achievements and progress on security that we’ve had in Colombia, and it’s an indispensable element without which a goal as ambitious as the one being proposed by President Santos, defeating violence, could not be achieved,” he declared.

The Defense Minister maintained that approval of the bill will make it possible to remedy what he called a “gray area” resulting from the lack of specific regulations on the subject of intelligence.

“What this bill seeks is that there be no gray areas, that we be able to put this in black and white: white what we can do, clearly defined, and black what we can’t do, clearly defined, so that once the Intelligence Act has been passed, we’ll be able to have one fundamental guiding verb, which is the verb ‘to protect,’” he specified.