Venezuela,Colombia – US Academics’ Open Letter to INTERPOL Secretary-General Demands Retraction of Inaccurate Statements about the So-Called “FARC” Computers

Posted on June 19, 2008

Recently, INTERPOL examined computers which Colombia claims were seized on March 1 in a FARC camp across the border from Colombia in Ecuador just after Colombia bombed the camp. Colombia immediately spread the allegation that files on the computers showed a link between President Chavez and the FARC. No evidence has been offered by Colombia to substantiate this claim and President Chavez has denied it. Many people have suspected that these computers were never at the FARC camp in the first place.

BTW, the current Secretary-General of INTERPOL, Ronald Noble, is an American.

Sent: Wed, 18 Jun 2008 11:28 am
Subject: Regarding May 15, 2008 Statement in Press on Interpol’s Forensic Report on FARC Computers and Hardware Seized by Colombia

June 17, 2008

Ronald Noble

Secretary General



200, quai Charles de Gaulle

69006 Lyon


Dear Mr. Noble,

We call on you to retract the following statement, made to the press on May 15, 2008:

“We are absolutely certain that the computer exhibits that our experts examined came from a FARC terrorist camp. No one can ever question whether or not the Colombian government tampered with the seized FARC computers.” (AP, May 15, 2008)

The first sentence appears to lie completely outside the scope of your investigation. In “Interpol’s Forensic Report on FARC Computers and Hardware Seized by Colombia,” there is no indication that Interpol did anything to verify Colombia’s claim regarding the origins of the computer equipment. On page 7, the official report reads, “The scope of INTERPOL’s computer forensic examination was limited to (a) determining the actual data contained in the eight seized FARC computer exhibits, (b) verifying whether the user files had been modified in any way on or after 1 March 2008, and (c) determining whether Colombian law enforcement authorities had handled and examined the eight seized FARC computer exhibits in conformity with internationally recognized principles for handling electronic evidence by law enforcement.”

Since INTERPOL did no investigation as to the origin of these computer exhibits, it would seem inappropriate and wrong for you to state that you are “absolutely certain” as to where they originated. This could give the misleading impression that INTERPOL’s investigation had actually verified the Colombian government’s claim – which is contested, for example, by the President of Ecuador.

The second sentence is within the scope of the investigation, but it is not clear that the report backs it up. For example, your report states that INTERPOL found “no evidence that user files were created, modified, or deleted on any of the eight seized FARC computer exhibits following their seizure on 1 March 2008 by Colombian authorities.”

To find no evidence of something is not the same as saying that it absolutely did not happen, or that “no one can ever question” whether it happened.

In light of the importance of this matter to hemispheric relations, and the importance of INTERPOL maintaining its impartiality in forensic investigations, we ask you to retract the first sentence quoted above, and to clarify and/or retract the second sentence.


Larry Birns, Council on Hemispheric Affairs – Director

Amy Chazkel, Queens College, City University of New York – Assistant Professor of History

James Early, TransAfrica Forum, and Institute for Policy Studies – Board Member

Sujatha Fernandes, Queens College, City University of New York – Assistant Professor of Sociology

Lesley Gill, American University – Associate Professor in Anthropology

Greg Grandin, New York University – Professor of History; Director of Graduate Studies

Daniel Hellinger, Webster University-Director & Professor, International Relations

Forrest Hylton, New York University – Department of History

Diana Paton, University of Newcastle, UK – Senior Lecturer in Caribbean History

Deborah Poole, Johns Hopkins University – Professor of Anthropology

Gerardo Renique, City College of the City University of New York – Associate Professor of History

Fred Rosen, North American Congress on Latin America – Senior Analyst

T.M Scruggs, University of Iowa – Associate Professor, Ethnomusicology

Sinclair Thomson, New York University- Associate Professor of History

Miguel Tinker Salas, Pomona College– Professor of Chicano and Latin American Studies

Mark Weisbrot, Center for Economic and Policy Research – Co-Director

John Womack, Harvard University- Robert Bliss Professor of Latin American History and