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McGovern Welcomes Inclusion of Unlawful Surveillance in Colombia Study in 2021 NDAA

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Washington, December 4, 2020 | comments

Today, Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA), Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, issued this statement about the 2021 NDAA conference report requiring a report to Congress on allegations that DOD-provided assistance was used by the Colombian armed forces to conduct unlawful intelligence gathering:

"I am pleased that the 2021 NDAA conference report requires the Department of Defense to submit a report to Congress on allegations that DOD-provided assistance was used by the Colombian armed forces to conduct unlawful intelligence gathering. This is a first step toward ensuring that we in Congress can exercise our oversight responsibilities and make sure that U.S. taxpayers are not funding human rights abuses in Colombia. Once we have the report in hand, we will consider whether additional measures are needed. I hope those targeted by this unlawful surveillance understand how seriously the U.S. Congress views this matter, and I urge Colombian authorities to move decisively to hold those responsible to account."

The full language requiring the study, from the 2021 NDAA joint explanatory statement, is below:

The conferees recognize the strategic regional importance of Colombia and the longstanding partnership between the United States and Colombia, and look forward to continuing to strengthen this partnership in order to implement the Colombian peace accords and address shared regional security challenges.

The conferees note with concern allegations of unlawful surveillance or intelligence gathering by the Colombian Armed Forces. The conferees encourage the Government of Colombia to continue to investigate credible allegations of misuse and take corrective actions, as appropriate, to ensure any misuse does not occur in the future. The conferees note that existing law requires that the provision of Department of Defense security sector assistance include programs focused on strengthening institutional capacity, to include adherence to human rights and international law.  Additionally, the conferees note that existing law and related policy requires that recipients of Department of Defense assistance use it for the purposes for which the assistance was provided and consistent with human rights and international law.

The conferees direct the Secretary of Defense, not later than 120 days after the date of enactment of this Act, to submit to the Committees on Armed Services of the Senate and the House of Representatives a report that describes any credible allegations since 2016 of Department of Defense-provided assistance intended to build the surveillance capabilities of the Colombian Armed Forces that was subsequently used by the Colombian Armed Forces to conduct unlawful surveillance or intelligence gathering. The report shall include a description of any steps taken by the Department in response to such credible allegations, to include any steps taken to seek to ensure that any misuse does not occur in the future. The report shall also include information on steps taken by the Government of Colombia in response to any credible evidence of misuse of such equipment, including a description of steps taken to hold those responsible accountable, ensure that any misuse does not occur in the future, and any modifications to relevant tactics, techniques, and procedures. The report shall be submitted in unclassified form, but may include a classified annex."

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