[News] Spinning the News - The FARC-EP Files, Venezuela and Interpol

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue May 20 10:38:51 EDT 2008

Spinning the News - The FARC-EP Files, Venezuela and Interpol


May 20, 2008 By Stephen Lendman

On March 1, the Colombian military (with US Special Forces help) 
illegally attacked a FARC-EP rebel camp inside Ecuador. US satellite 
telephone tracking located the site. Washington signed off on the 
mission. Over 20 people were killed, including 16 or more FARC-EP 
members while they slept. Key among them was Paul Reyes, the 
FARC-EP's second-in-command, key peace negotiator and public voice, 
and lead figure in the Chavez-led hostage negotiations with Colombia.

The action was a clear act of aggression and premeditated murder. 
It's not how the dominant media played it. Hostile verbal exchanges 
took place between Hugo Chavez and Ecuador's Raphael Correa on the 
one hand and Colombia's Alvaro Uribe and George Bush on the other. US 
presidential candidates, as expected, supported the White House and Bogota.

Tensions heightened further when Colombia's vice-president, Francisco 
Santos Calderon, revealed his nation's army recovered three laptops 
and other material at the FARC-EP camp with provocative evidence on 
their hard drives. He claimed it showed Chavez and Correa have links 
to the FARC-EP, and Venezuela provided weapons, munitions, and $300 
million or so to the rebel group. In addition, the FARC-EP was 
accused of acquiring 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of uranium, that it 
wishes to sell it for a radioactive dirty bomb, it also sold 700 
kilograms of cocaine for about $1.5 million, and more.

The story is preposterous, but the media grabbed hold of it. No 
evidence exists, so they invent it. In March, Colombian authorities 
asked Interpol to examine the computer files for authenticity. The 
organization released its report on May 15. On its web site, it 
states that Secretary General Ronald Noble "advised senior Colombian 
law enforcement officials that INTERPOL's team of forensic experts 
discovered 'no evidence of modification, alteration, addition or 
deletion' in the user files of any of the three laptop computers, 
three USB thumb drives and two external hard disks seized during a 
Colombian anti-narcotics and anti-terrorist operation on a FARC camp 
on 1 March 2008."

But Interpol admitted that lacking evidence doesn't prove "there was 
no tampering." In fact, some files had future date stamps and other 
indications of data alteration. It questions their authenticity, and 
Interpol (deep in its report) acknowledged that Columbia likely 
manipulated the contents - with an explanation needing close reading 
to understand. It delegitimizes Colombian claims and would get an 
international court to dismiss them out of hand. Reporters doing 
their job should as well. Data accuracy can't be verified or worse - 
they may be entirely fraudulent, and made-in-Washington mischief may 
be behind it.

Interpol's report continued saying "between 1 and 3 March, direct 
access to the seized computer exhibits....did not follow 
internationally recognized principles in the handling of electronic 
evidence under ordinary circumstance." Its experts "verified that 
this....had no effect" on file contents, but other report evidence 
contradicts that statement. Interpol, in fact, stated that "Direct 
access may complicate validating this evidence for purposes of its 
introduction in a judicial proceeding because law enforcement is then 
required to demonstrate or prove that the direct access did not have 
a material impact on the purpose for which the evidence is intended."

In short, hard drive data prove nothing and may, in fact, be fake. 
With US involvement clear, it wouldn't be the first time, and 
Washington is rich in talent to do it.

Independent computer experts are also troubled. They believe that 
failure to follow standard evidence handling procedures seriously 
jeopardizes its reliability. With care, forensic specialists or 
computer professionals can add, delete or alter hard drive material 
without leaving a footprint.

Dominant media reports ignored this and more. They passed over or 
played down key findings, including Interpol's statement: that its 
experts didn't "evaluate the accuracy or the source of the exhibits' 
content." How could they? The volume was enormous amounting to the 
equivalent of "39.5 million pages in Microsoft Word...." At the rate 
of 100 pages a day, "it would take more than 1000 years to read" it.

That alone begs the question. In a few days or even weeks, how were 
Colombian authorities able to analyze the data to discover 
provocative information therein. That notion also got no attention in 
the dominant media. Neither did most other parts of the truth.

Spinning the News - How Big Media Does It

Here's how Murdoch's Wall Street Journal's played it on May 16. Its 
editorial page said Interpol's May 15 report "won't make Venezuelan 
strongman Hugo Chavez's day." It reported Interpol's claim about no 
evidence of file tampering, but ignored the issues of authenticity, 
accuracy, manipulation, or impossible "speed-reading" skills of 
Colombian verifiers. It concluded that "Interpol's certification 
proves that Mr. Chavez is trying to destabilize a US ally (and that 
he's a) proven supporter of terrorism in our own hemisphere."

The New York Times' Simon Romero was little better. His May 16 
article was headlined: "Files Tying Venezuela to Rebels Not Altered, 
Report Says." He called Interpol's report "a setback for Venezuela, 
which had claimed that the computer files....were fabrications...." 
It "may advance efforts under way in the Congress to add Venezuela to 
the United States' list of state sponsors of terrorism...."

Well down in his report, Romero admitted that "Interpol could not 
vouch for the accuracy of the files" and that "a Colombian 
antiterrorism unit (seized them improperly and) in violation of 
internationally recognized rules on handling electronic evidence...." 
No further comment was added.

In contrast, Romero played up State Department spokesman, Sean 
McCormack, saying these "are serious allegations about Venezuela 
supplying arms and support to a terrorist organization....that has 
deep implications for the people of the region." He had to 
acknowledge, however, what credible experts agree on. Given the 
importance of US and Venezuelan relations, chances of declaring the 
country a state sponsor of terrorism is highly remote - "particularly 
without more evidence (read any evidence) of the country's support of 
the FARC..."

Latin American history professor Greg Grandin goes further. He 
believes "Almost all of Latin America and most of the world would 
take Venezuela's side in this dispute. Any move (against the Chavez 
government) would further isolate the United States in a region where 
it has been hemorrhaging influence."

That doesn't phase Romero. Piling on is his specialty. Truth isn't. 
He returned on May 18 with a provocative feature story headlined: 
"Chavez Seizes Greater Economic Power." Some key points in it are:

-- "Chavez is intensifying state control of the Venezuelan economy 
through a wave of takeovers of private companies and creation of 
government-controlled ventures with allies like Cuba and Iran; fears 
are intensifying (over) more nationalizations;"

-- it's happening "just months after voters rejected a referendum to 
give the president sweeping constitutional power (leading critics to 
accuse him of being) more interested in consolidating power than in 
fixing Venezuela's problems;"

-- "while he has argued that (he aims) to correct social injustices 
and fight soaring inflation, his critics say his moves are instead 
compounding these troubles;" no supporter voices in sight;

-- to avoid "outright confiscation (he's) offering 'some' 
compensation;" unmentioned is it's fair market value and nothing was, 
is or will be "confiscated;"

-- Romero stresses Venezuela's ties to Iran and China with joint 
ventures and infrastructure projects; also that Chavez will "export 
more oil to China in exchange for more Chinese investment in 
Venezuela;" implied, of course, are his relations with US rivals, 
and, in the case of Iran, a country George Bush calls "the world's 
leading state sponsor of terrorism;"

-- he ignores Venezuela's successes; along with Argentina, it's the 
fastest growing regional economy and one of the fastest in the world 
at a time of economic weakness; its impressive employment growth with 
most of it coming in the private sector; that Chavez is friendly to 
business and boosts the private economy; the country's huge social 
gains; and Chavez's immense popularity and growing world stature; 
instead he lists problems - high inflation, less foreign investment, 
food shortages, capital flight, and more that are only mitigated by 
"high oil prices;"

-- near the article's end, he's forced to admit what economist Mark 
Weisbrot explains - that Chavez "is so far mainly just reversing some 
of the privatizations that took place in the 1990s;"

-- Romero reverts to form with some provocative ending quotes about 
Chavez "stimulating a pre-insurrectional climate;" that his 
nationalizations aim "to annihilate the productive apparatus so that 
we depend more on petroleum, which is to depend more on the state, or 
in other words, to depend more on Chavez."

For the dominant US media, Chavez-bashing is full-time. Washington 
Post writers excel at it on any pretext, and Juan Forero's May 16 
Interpol report article was typical. It's headlined: "FARC Computer 
Files Are Authentic, Interpol Probe Finds." He echoed the Wall Street 
Journal and New York Times and said files seized "contain e-mails 
(Interpol never mentioned any) and other documents that show how 
Venezuela's populist leader had formed such a tight bond with 
guerrilla commanders that his key lieutenants had offered help in 
obtaining sophisticated weaponry such as surface-to-air missiles 
while delivering light arms. The files also document links between 
FARC and Ecuador's president, Raphael Correa, a close ally of Chavez."

Similar reports appeared throughout the US and western media. They 
never miss a chance to play down facts and attack populist leaders. 
In response, Hugo Chavez dismissed the allegations as "ridiculous." 
He urged Colombia's president to have "a moment of reflection (and 
added) The government of Columbia is capable of provoking a war....to 
justify a US intervention in Venezuela." He also called Colombia's 
assertion "a new act of aggression." It means relations with his 
neighbor will come "under deep review," and Reuters reported May 15 
that "Venezuela is deeply revising diplomatic, economic and political 
relations with Colombia" following Interpol's report and the Uribe 
government's allegations.

Ecuador's Correa was abroad in France, but took time to say the 
computer file documents "prove absolutely nothing. We have 
information that the Colombian government had the computers for some 
time and prepared all this." Quite possibly because the entire story 
is unraveling. But don't expect Big Media to report it.

Revving Up Gunboat Diplomacy

While it continues, the Pentagon announced in April that it's 
resurrecting its Fourth Fleet in Latin America and the Caribbean 
after a 60 year hiatus. It was created during WW II and disbanded in 
1950. Reasons given were vaguely stated - to "conduct varying 
missions including a range of contingency operations, counter 
narco-terrorism, and theater security cooperation activities."

US Naval Forces Southern Command chief Admiral James Stevenson said 
the move would send a message to the entire region, not just 
Venezuela. Commandant of the National War College, General Robert 
Steel added that: "The United States' obsession with Venezuela, Cuba 
and other things indicates they are going to use more military force, 
going to use that instrument more often." Bolivian President Evo 
Morales called the move "Fourth Fleet....intervention."

The Fleet begins operating in July and will be headquartered out of 
Florida's Mayport Naval Station. It'll be part of the Pentagon's 
Southern Command, extending from the Caribbean to the continent's 
southern tip. Its strength will be formidable - aircraft carriers, 
submarines, various attack ships, and several nuclear-armed ones.

With no Latin American threat, why then this move, and why now with 
an administration nearing its end and bogged down in two unwinnable 
wars? Like the Middle East and Central Asia, the region's importance 
is crucial. Venezuela alone is why. Its proved oil reserves were just 
raised to 130 billion barrels, but include what's uncounted and 
they're far higher. On its web site, the US Department of Energy 
(DOE) estimates the country's extra-heavy oil at 1.36 trillion 
barrels, or 90% of the world's total. That's more than all "proved" 
world reserves combined and in addition to Venezuela's "proved" light 
sweet resources of around 80 billion barrels that alone ranks it 
seventh in the world behind the five largest Middle East producers and Canada.

With stakes that high, it's significant that Admiral Joseph Kernan 
will become Fleet commander when it's activated. He currently heads 
the Naval Special Warfare Command that includes Navy Seals and other 
counterinsurgency units. His choice is troublesome, and regional 
leaders are mindful. Hugo Chavez especially. It may be why he's 
buying nine Russian submarines, but against America it hardly 
registers. In total, Venezuela spends $1 - 2 billion on its military 
annually or less than half of 1% of the Pentagon's budget. 
Nonetheless, it's another reason Washington targets him with a 
hawkish commander now charged to do it.

Rumor also is that the Pentagon plans building a Colombian military 
base near Venezuela's border. Washington's Colombian ambassador, 
William Brownfield, said it's possible if its Manta, Ecuador one is 
closed. Its lease expires in 2009, and Raphael Correa said renewal 
depends on the US granting Ecuador equivalent basing rights in South 
Florida - his way of confirming renewal won't happen.

Chavez is justifiably alarmed at the prospect of US troops on his 
border. He warned Colombia not to do it and said this action will 
force Venezuela to revive a decades-old territorial conflict over its 
possible La Guajira location. He further added: "We will not allow 
the Colombian government to give La Guajira to the empire." 
Stationing US troops there will be "a threat of war at us." So far, 
neither Washington or Colombia confirm what's planned. But Colombia's 
defense minister, Juan Manuel Santos, denies the base rumor, at least 
in La Guajira. In a May 14 televised address, Chavez called it "good 
news." Nonetheless, the situation  bears watching.

Chavez is justifiably wary. As long as he's president, he'll be 
vilified and targeted. Latin America is vital to Washington. 
Venezuela is a key part of it. But America's dominance is weakening, 
neoliberal pillage caused it, the Bush administration accelerated it, 
Bolivarianism challenges it, so muscular militarism may replace 
diplomacy to restore it.

Colombia's belligerency, the FARC-EP files, Fourth Fleet 
reactivation, continued funding of Venezuela's opposition, CIA's 
covert mischief, disruptive street violence, and other planned 
schemes are troublesome. They're to reassert regional control and rid 
Washington of its leading hemispheric antagonist. No guessing who, 
and no telling when the next attempt will come or in what form. 
Everything tried so far failed. Even worse, it's been 
counterproductive. Chavez has enormous stature and immense popular support.

That makes him an even greater threat and hints at something bigger 
coming. So far, it's just speculation, however, with the 
administration's tenure winding down. But it may or may not deter 
those running it who are always wrong, never in doubt, and apparently 
willing to risk making a bad situation worse. Stay tuned, expect 
surprises, and be assured the months ahead won't be boring.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at 
<mailto:lendmanstephen at sbcglobal.net>lendmanstephen at sbcglobal.net. 
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.

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