Washington, D.C., 1 August 2004 – Then-Senator and now President Álvaro Uribe Vélez of Colombia was a «close personal friend of Pablo Escobar» who was «dedicated to collaboration with the Medellín [drug] cartel at high government levels,» according to a 1991 intelligence report from U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) officials in Colombia. The document was posted today on the website of the National Security Archive, a non-governmental research group based at George Washington University.

Uribe’s inclusion on the list raises new questions about allegations that surfaced during Colombia’s 2002 presidential campaign. Candidate Uribe bristled and abruptly terminated an interview in March 2002 when asked by Newsweek reporter Joseph Contreras about his alleged ties to Escobar and his associations with others involved in the drug trade. Uribe accused Contreras of trying to smear his reputation, saying that, «as a politician, I have been honorable and accountable.»

The newly-declassified report, dated 23 September 1991, is a numbered list of «the more important Colombian narco-traffickers contracted by the Colombian narcotic cartels for security, transportation, distribution, collection and enforcement of narcotics operations.» The document was released by DIA in May 2004 in response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the Archive in August 2000.
The source of the report was removed by DIA censors, but the detailed, investigative nature of the report — the list corresponds with a numbered set of photographs that were apparently provided with the original — suggests it was probably obtained from Colombian or U.S. counternarcotics personnel. The document notes that some of the information in the report was verified «via interfaces with other agencies.»

President Uribe — now a key U.S. partner in the drug war — «was linked to a business involved in narcotics activities in the United States» and «has worked for the Medellín cartel,» the narcotics trafficking organization led by Escobar until he was killed by Colombian government forces in 1993. The report adds that Uribe participated in Escobar’s parliamentary campaign and that as senator he had «attacked all forms of the extradition treaty» with the U.S.

«Because both the source of the report and the reporting officer’s comments section were not declassified, we cannot be sure how the DIA judged the accuracy of this information,» said Michael Evans, director of the Archive’s Colombia Documentation Project, «but we do know that intelligence officials believed the document was serious and important enough to pass on to analysts in Washington.»

In a statement issued on July 30, the Colombian government took exception to several items reported in the document, saying that Uribe has never had any foreign business dealings, that his father was killed while fleeing a kidnap attempt by FARC guerrillas, and that he had not opposed the extradition treaty, but merely hoped to postpone a referendum to prevent the possibility that narcotraffickers would influence the vote.

The communiqué, however, did not deny the most significant allegation reported in the document: that Uribe had a close personal relationship with Pablo Escobar and business dealings with the Medellín Cartel.

The document is marked «CONFIDENTIAL NOFORN WNINTEL,» indicating that its disclosure could reasonably be expected to damage national security, that its content was based on intelligence sources and methods, and that it should not be shared with foreign nationals.

Uribe, the 82nd name on the list, appears on the same page as Escobar and Fidel Castaño, who went on to form the country’s major paramilitary army, a State Department-designated terrorist group now engaged in peace negotiations with the Uribe government. Written in March 1991 while Escobar was still a fugitive, the report was forwarded to Washington several months after his surrender to Colombian authorities in June 1991.
Most of those on the list are well-known drug traffickers or assassins associated with the Medellín cartel. Others listed include ex-president of Panama Manuel Noriega, Iran-contra arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi, and Carlos Vives, a Colombian entertainer said to be connected to the narcotics business through his uncle.

23 September 1991 (Date of Information 18 March 1991)
Narcotics – Colombian Narco-trafficker Profiles
Defense Intelligence Agency, Intelligence Information Report, Confidential, 14 pp.
Source: Declassification Release Under the Freedom of Information Act, May 2004

Is the Document Accurate?

As stated in the document, the report is «not finally evaluated» intelligence information. In other words, the information reported in the document is only as good as its source. In this case, the DIA has withheld from release the source of the information as well as the comments of the reporting official from the Department of Defense, making it difficult to verify the accuracy of the information listed in the document. However, the document differs from the average field report in several ways:
1) The summary indicates that information in the report was cross-checked «via interfaces with other agencies,» indicating that some
evaluation had already taken place.

2) The summary offers no caveats or qualifications on the credibility of the information and is stated as fact. It thus seems likely that the originator of the report (the «source») believed the information to be true.

3) The report includes many details like identification card numbers and dates of birth, giving it the appearance of an official, investigative document. The fact that the numbered list corresponds to photographs that were provided with the original suggests that the report had a variety of uses, including criminal investigations and immigration cases.

4) Much of the information on other individuals identified in the report is accurate and easily verifiable.

5) It is evident that a significant amount of time and energy went into compiling this report, and that it did not come from a single source at a cocktail party as these reports often do.