On May 10, 2011 The Guardian newspaper in the UK and the New York Times published stories on the May 10 release of a compilation of records allegedly from computers and flash drives seized in a 2008 cross border raid in Ecuador of a camp where Colombian FARC commander Raul Reyes was negotiating FARC prisoner releases. Reyes and others were killed in the bombing, but several computers and thumb drives were supposedly captured undamaged. The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a right-wing British think tank, has released what it claims were files on those computers. While The Guardian and New York Times stories included brief statements of doubt about the credibility of the files, on May 11 McCatchy and perhaps other wire services circulated stories that reported the allegations as if they were facts. Below are talking points for letters to the editor or radio show call-ins to set the record straight.
1. The international law enforcement agency INTERPOL stated of its 2008 examination of the computers that the Colombian military’s treatment of the files “did not conform to internationally recognised principles for the ordinary handling of electronic evidence by law enforcement.” The report said that in the one week that Colombian authorities had the computers before turning them over to INTERPOL that 9,440 files were modified and 2,905 were deleted.
2. There is no supporting documentation of the claim that the FARC gave $40,000 to Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa’s presidential re-election campaign. Correa denies the allegation.
3. There is no evidence to the claim that the Venezuela government of President Hugo Chavez asked the FARC to assassinate political opponents. In fact there have been no assassinations of government opponents. There have been a few targeted killings of pro-government union organizers and members of peasant cooperatives benefiting from government land reform initiatives.
4. Previous revelations of FARC “emails” (there were no emails, only easily doctored Word files on the computers) have proven to be false, such as a picture of an Ecuadoran government official meeting with the FARC which was faked.
5. The US government dismissed a claim by the Colombian military that the FARC was constructing a “dirty bomb.”
6. OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza told the US House Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs a month after the deadly attack in which the computers were seized that there was “no evidence” of Venezuela-FARC collusion.
7. US Southern Command head Gen. Douglas Fraser, in response to a question by Sen. John McCain said, “We have not seen any connections specifically that I can verify that there has been a direct government-to-terrorist connection.”
Fraser took back his comment after being called on the carpet by the State Department.