Interpol’s Report Confirms that the Supposed FARC Computers Were Manipulated

The Interpol report on the computers that supposedly link Venezuela to the FARC says that user documents (Word and the like) are authentic, because they were not modified between March 1 and the date of the examination, however, the same report acknowledges the limits of this statement.

Last March 1, the Colombian Army attacked a FARC
camp in Ecuadoran territory. The army supposedly captured three
laptops, three flash drives and two external hard disks. And it must be
said "supposedly" because said evidence was not obtained under
established police or judicial procedures, but rather through military
aggression in a foreign country, making any evidence obtained thereby
illegal and unusable in any judicial procedure.

In order to give
validity to this "evidence," the Colombian authorities asked Interpol
to produce a report certifying the "authenticity" of the archives
contained in the equipment. Yesterday, March 15, the report was made public; a reading of which, calls attention to the following conclusions:

First, a reference is made to "data classified as ULTRA SECRETO" (Page 20 of the report) when part of the data was already published in the El País newspaper.

most important is that the report itself acknowledges in its "Finding
2b" (Page 30) that the Colombian authorities manipulated the computers
and storage devices and that "Access to the data contained in the eight
FARC computer exhibits…did not conform to internationally recognized
principles for handling electronic evidence by law enforcement."

The study commissioned by the Colombian government acknowledges that:

"Direct access may complicate validating this evidence for purposes of
its introduction in a judicial proceeding, because law enforcement is
then required to demonstrate or prove that the direct access did not
have a material impact on the purpose for which the evidence is

For example, further on in the document, Interpol says that:

"The operating systems of the three seized laptops all showed that the
laptops had been shut down on 3 March 2008 (at different times, but all
three prior to 11:45 a.m., the time of receipt by the forensic computer
examiners of the Colombian Judicial Police). The two external hard
disks and the three USB thumb drives had all been connected to a
computer between 1 and 3 March 2008, without prior imagine of their
contents and without the use of write-blocking hardware."

is, the Colombian Army used and modified the archives contained in the
computers, USB memory and hard disks, before delivering them to the
Colombian police.

For example, on page 31, the report says:

   "83. Seized exhibit 26, a laptop computer, showed the following effects on files on or after 1 March 2008:

       * 273 system files were created
       * 373 system and user files were accessed
       * 786 system files were modified
       * 488 system files were deleted

report says that user documents (Word and the like) are authentic,
because they were not modified between March 1 and the date of the
examination, however, the same report acknowledges the limits of this
statement because in Exhibit 31, there are:

       * 2,110 files with creation dates ranging between 20 April 2009 to 27 August 2009

       * 1,434 files which show as having been last modified between 5 April 2009 and 16 October 2010

concludes that "these files were originally created prior to 1 March
2008 on a device or devices with incorrect system time settings. (Page

What this means is that any user changing the time on the
operating system can create a document with any date they please,
either a prior or even a future one.

It must be stressed that in regard to the forensic conclusions, the report literally says:

Without revealing the content of the data, INTERPOL can state the
following with regard to the user files contained in the eight seized
FARC computer exhibits:

       * 109 document files were found on more than one of the exhibits
       * 452 spreadsheets
       * 7,989 e-mail addresses
       * 10,537 multimedia files (sound and video)
       * 22,481 web pages
       * 37,872 written documents (such as Word documents, PDF files, text format documents)
       * 210,888 images

   Of the above, 983 files were found to be encrypted. (Page 27)

In other words, nowhere in the seized computers is there a reference to them containing emails. Remember that the reports from El País
referred to emails and published the files under the headline "Emails
captured from Raúl Reyes computer." Therefore, where did they get those
emails? Or did they simply not exist in the seized computers?

the report concludes (Page 35 and beyond) with seven pages dedicated to
recommendations to police in member countries, telling them how
electronic evidence should be treated, recommendations that were
probably made because this case serves as an example to police for how
not to collect information technology (IT) evidence. The only way in
which one might ensure the authenticity of documents contained in IT
archives is to obtain them under judicial direction and from the
outset, when they come into custody of jurisdictionally independent
authorities; doing forensic testing on only one exact copy of the
contents of the hard disks and memory.

As it is, Interpol's own report only casts more doubt on the origin of the computer archives published by El País in order to attack Venezuela and Ecuador.

has also been pointed out by the U.S. academics Miguel Tinker-Salas,
Professor at the University of California (Pomona) and Forrest Hylton,
Professor at New York University (NYU), who warned that the information
found in the computers said to be those of Raúl Reyes, had been misused
by the Colombian government and Interpol.

Miguel Tinker-Salas,
an expert on Latin American subjects, indicated that there are number
of politically motivated misinterpretations assigned to the contents of
the computers. "One must recall that Interpol can only say whether
manipulation took place. But it cannot say whether the elements it
found are original and it cannot certify the information." Moreover, he
pointed out the problem inherent in the fact that the report was
disseminated from Colombia, since this demonstrates that Interpol is
defending the interests of Álvaro Uribe's government, supported by the
United States.

Forrest Hylton, of NYU, expressed the need for
the contents to be verified by an institution with a greater degree of
independence. "It's likely that the computers did survive the Colombian
bombing, but the problem is that we don't know anything more, nor how
they were treated," he said.

The reality is the Colombia did
manipulate the FARC computers. The media, the Colombian government and
Interpol's managers have stressed the elements that interest the media
who headline their reports, "Interpol Finds Documents Sourcing From
Raúl Reyes' Computer to be Authentic," or "Police Agency says Venezuela
Financed the FARC" (El País). The most eloquent evidence that
these headlines are lies is that the Interpol report, in order to
ensure its impartiality, was done by IT technicians who don't speak
Spanish and didn't have a political understanding of what the files
said. That's what one report said: "The experts come from outside the
region and didn't speak Spanish, which helped eliminate the possibility
that they might have been influenced by the contents of the data they
were analyzing." A report from an IT technician who doesn't understand
Spanish cannot possibly say that Venezuela financed the FARC, because
s/he wouldn't have understood a single word of what the files said.

The media misrepresentation has continued while the Interpol report summary says:

The verification of the eight seized FARC computer exhibits by
INTERPOL does not imply the validation of the accuracy of the user
files, the validation of any country's interpretation of the user files
or the validation of the source of the user files.

El País headlined its report from Maite Rico and Pilar Lozano, "Interpol Certifies that the FARC Computers Were Not Manipulated," with the subtitle: "Police Organization Says the Laptops Belonged to Raúl Reyes."

the other hand, in passing supposed contents of the computers that
implicated Venezuela and Ecuador through the filter of a friendly
press, Colombian authorities showed the world that they were more
interested in criminalizing these governments than in allowing judges
and security forces to work. If they're so interested in transparency,
it would be good to know what information the FARC had about
paramilitary crimes and the members of the Uribe administration implied
in paramilitarism. Surely there were was plenty of that in the hundreds
of gigabytes that are said to be contained in the disks.

Translated by  Machetera