LYON, France - Following the publication of ‘INTERPOL’s Forensic report on FARC computers and hardware seized by Colombia’ on Thursday, 15 May 2008, there have been many inaccurate and misleading statements made in relation to INTERPOL’s findings.
The most recent misinterpretation of the report’s conclusions was contained in a press release issued by Ecuador’s Ministry of Foreign Relations on Tuesday, 10 June following a meeting with INTERPOL officials from its New York office at the United Nations. Ecuador's press release gives the false impression that some ‘new’ information was brought to light during its meeting with INTERPOL representatives. INTERPOL believes that Ecuador has misinterpreted the key findings of INTERPOL's report and the content of discussions with INTERPOL staff.
For example, Ecuador’s press release inaccurately suggests that INTERPOL had not established whether the eight seized exhibits forensically examined by INTERPOL’s computer forensic experts had been recovered by Colombian authorities on 1 March 2008 from a FARC camp or belonged to Raul Reyes.
In fact, during the preparation of its report INTERPOL requested and was provided with documents and information relating to the chain of custody of the exhibits seized by Colombian authorities on 1 March 2008. Based on a review of all the information and material provided by Colombia, including a classified oral briefing, INTERPOL was able to satisfy itself, and clearly stated in its report, that the seized computer exhibits it was requested to forensically examine were taken from the FARC terrorist camp on 1 March 2008 and belonged to Raul Reyes. This finding was inextricably linked to INTERPOL's determination as to whether there was any manipulation or alteration of data contained in those seized computer exhibits.
The INTERPOL report clearly states that the overall conclusion of its experts was that ‘no user files have been created, modified or deleted on any of the eight FARC computer exhibits following their seizure on 1 March 2008’ (paragraph 99). The report also makes clear that after detailed and careful computer forensic analysis – comprehensively documented within the text - the experts excluded the possibility that the user files were tampered with after 1 March 2008, including the period between 1 and 3 March 2008.
Therefore, the assertion in the press release issued by Ecuador that there was no evidence ‘that user files had not been created, modified or deleted’ is groundless. Clearly, if no user file has been created or modified or deleted on a computer then there will not be any evidence of this, as it does not exist. INTERPOL cannot understand why Ecuador would persist in trying to suggest that Colombian law enforcement authorities altered the content of the user files of the seized FARC computer exhibits when INTERPOL's independent investigation determined that they did not.
If Ecuador has objections with the content of the user files, then Ecuador should criticise the FARC because the seized computers belonged to the FARC. Yet, to date, INTERPOL has not read any account of Ecuador denouncing or criticising the FARC in relation to any user files content in the seized computer exhibits allegedly implicating Ecuador or any of its government officials.
INTERPOL also has made clear that validating the contents of the computer exhibits were not manipulated after their seizure by Colombian authorities is not in any way, shape or form the same as saying that the contents of the user files are true and accurate. INTERPOL therefore objects to those who suggest that INTERPOL's report validates the source and accuracy of any particular document or user file contained therein. INTERPOL's report states exactly the contrary.
Countries and individuals who have been the subject of attack based on INTERPOL's report could thus have used INTERPOL's report to support their arguments of innocence, rather than invoking false, weak and offensive arguments that the user files had been manipulated or altered by Colombian authorities after their seizure. The fact that a computer contains a document accusing or implicating a person of wrongdoing does not make such claims true. Only a court of law or a specially appointed commission with appropriate jurisdiction can make such a determination after having heard all of the evidence.
In response to Ecuador’s ‘reaffirmation’ that ‘it attached no evidential value to the information obtained in the computers,’ it must again be made clear that at no time has INTERPOL suggested or recommended its factual determination that none of the user files were altered be legally binding in any of its 186 member countries. It must also be underlined that INTERPOL’s report was not prepared in order that it be submitted to any court of law; INTERPOL's report was prepared in response to Colombia's request, with the full support of the Organization of American States and without any objection from any INTERPOL member country (including Ecuador).
Ecuador, or any of INTERPOL’s member countries, has the sovereign right to accept or reject INTERPOL’s report in whole or in part, but no governmental authority should mislead or misinform the public about INTERPOL’s findings, either to deflect the focus of the public's attention, to attack an individual or a country, or through a lack of understanding.
As stated not only in the report, but on many occasions, INTERPOL’s Secretary General has repeatedly offered to meet with Ecuador or any other INTERPOL member country that has concerns or questions about the nature of INTERPOL’s computer forensic assistance to Colombia, an offer which has never been taken up.
In the interests of international police co-operation, INTERPOL hopes that Ecuador will control its repeated tendency to attack INTERPOL for simply having reported the truth in an impartial manner. If there is indeed content in the seized FARC computer user files with which Ecuador disagrees, then it should complain to and criticise the FARC, not INTERPOL.
INTERPOL equally hopes that in the future, any country or individual commenting on ‘INTERPOL’s Forensic report on FARC computers and hardware seized by Colombia’ will study the actual contents of the report before making erroneous or misleading remarks about its alleged content.