INTERPOL’s 13 June 2008 press release attempts to clarify its position on the computer equipment reportedly found by Columbian agents when those agents crossed the international border into the sovereign nation of Ecuador on 1 March 2008. Since there has been much press and apparently some confusion regarding the legitimacy of the documents on the computer equipment, INTERPOL has decided to clear things up. The press release tells us that “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.” While INTERPOL’s “oral briefing” and self-satisfaction may be sufficient for INTERPOL, many of us would like to be sure we are given the facts.
In its 13 June 2008 press release, INTERPOL has made it clear that they have made no determination as to the legitimacy of any files on the computers in question. Their press release states that “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,” and they have made it very clear that it is not their position in any way “that the contents of the user files are true and accurate.” It is also helpful that INTERPOL states further that “The fact that a computer contains a document accusing or implicating a person of wrongdoing does not make such claims true.” This should finally put to rest any question as to whether or not files on the laptops in any way prove anything at all about Hugo Chavez. INTERPOL’s report and subsequent press release draws no conclusion regarding Hugo Chavez or the legitimacy of any computer files. The media needs to stop falsely using the INTERPOL report to make accusations to the contrary.
Some fundamental issues remain in regard to the initial INTERPOL report, and while those issues have been stated elsewhere they remain: a) the computer equipment is assumed to be FARC computer equipment, b) how did INTERPOL determine as fact that the computer equipment was seized on 1 March 2008 and, c) how has INTERPOL determined as fact that the laptop in question was the property of Raul Reyes?
INTERPOL has stated that its CompFor experts “did not speak Spanish,” so it seems the proof of ownership of the laptop was not discovered by INTERPOL on the laptop itself. There also is no mention in the report of the fingerprints or DNA of Raul Reyes being found on the laptop. Isn’t it only upon the word of the Columbian agents that INTERPOL could find “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”? Furthermore, “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.” If INTERPOL’s finding of laptop ownership happen to be based on a false assumption, then INTERPOL’s determination, which is “inextricably linked” to that finding, as to whether there was any manipulation or alteration of data on those computers, would also be derived from that same false assumption. The fundamental assumption upon which INTERPOL bases its findings and determination is that the computer equipment was actually found at the FARC camp on 1 March 2008 and that it belonged to Raul Reyes. Does INTERPOL have any factual evidence that leads them to assert that the computer equipment was found at the FARC camp, or is it that they were told this and base their assertion upon what they were told? Does INTERPOL have any factual evidence that how the Columbians state they came into possession of the computers is actually how they came into possession of the computers? Or is it that INTERPOL is simply taking them at their word? The truth or factuality of such statements by the Columbian agents would seem to be the responsibility of impartial judges and juries, not police investigators who were called in by the Columbians to investigate what they say they found. Perhaps we should separate fact from assumptions, and not make assertions or draw conclusions based on what the attackers say they found.
The facts in this situation are 1) there is computer equipment, 2) there are files on the computer equipment, and 3) the files on the computer equipment have words in them. But where the computer equipment came from, who owned the computer equipment, who created the files on the computer equipment, whether or not there is any truth to what is written in those files, and whose interpretation of those files is to be believed, may all be more the realm of judge and jury rather than a fact gathering organization or public opinion.
Regarding the truthfulness of what is written in the files, INTERPOL does remind us that “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.” Perhaps it is also just such a court of law or appropriate jurisdiction that is the place for determination of the truthfulness of the statements made by the Columbian agents as to where the computer equipment came from and who the computer belonged to.
As final comments, INTERPOL’s press release seems to suggest Ecuador initiate communication with the FARC, stating that “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.” Firstly, it may be a bit presumptuous of INTERPOL to give directives to a sovereign nation as to what it “should” or should not do. Secondly, if in the future there are any questions raised about Ecuador communicating with the FARC, it may be advisable to keep in mind that such communication may have been recommended by INTERPOL itself. Lastly, while opening up dialogue with others is often a good approach to resolve disputes, is it advisable for INTERPOL to recommend that the government of Ecuador “complain to” or “criticise” an organization that INTERPOL itself has deemed to be a terrorist organization?