[Thanks to Catharine and Wayne Madsen for this link and info.]
There is a mounting body of evidence, both open source and classified, that the "rescue" of former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, three American military contractors working for Northrop Grumman -- Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell -- and eleven Colombian hostages from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was a staged event designed to serve as a propaganda boost for Colombia's pro-U.S. President Alvaro Uribe and the flagging presidential campaign of Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who was visiting Bogota at the time of the hostage "rescue," an operation code named "Jaque."
To believe the Colombian government and US ambassador to Bogota William Brownfield, whose previous stint was in Caracas, Venezuela where he was charged with trying to foment rebellions against President Hugo Chavez, the fifteen FARC hostages were rescued after Colombian intelligence infiltrated the top echelons of FARC, tricked local FARC commanders that the hostages were being moved by an MI-17 unmarked helicopter to another rebel camp, and then flew the hostages by helicopter to safety. The "rescue" team, wearing FARC clothing and accompanied by a video crew, was even reported to have taken acting lessons.
More suspicious is the number of Colombian and foreign intelligence organizations now claiming to have been involved in the "rescue" operation. In addition to Colombian military and intelligence, those claiming a role in the operation include U.S. Special Forces, U.S. intelligence, the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), and, more recently, according to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the Israeli security company Global CST owned by retired Israeli Brigadier General Israel Ziv and Brigadier Yossi Kuperwasser. The company claims to have a team of ex-Mossad, Shin Bet, and Israeli Defense Force personnel in Colombia helping the government to battle the FARC.
Brownfield cited close American intelligence, equipment, and training advice in assisting Colombia in securing the hostages' release. There are reports that US surveillance aircraft were used to monitor the communications of the FARC. SOUTHCOM commander Admiral Jim Stavridis said his military command "closely monitored" the hostage "rescue" events. However, WMR has been informed by sources within the National Security Agency (NSA) that the priority for rescuing the three American contractors, said to be involved in counter-narcotics operations but in reality were signals intelligence (SIGINT) operators eavesdropping on the FARC and another guerrilla group, the ELN, was practically non-existent. The three Americans were said to have been taken hostage in 2003 after their Cessna aircraft crashed in the Colombian jungle. In fact, the three were, according to NSA sources, SIGINT specialists who spoke fluent Spanish and were trained in hostage survival in a special military school called SERE, "Survival, Evade, Resist and Escape."
Other NSA sources report that the actual number of American SIGINT operators on board the downed aircraft was around 8 or 9 and that the aircraft was larger than a normal Cessna. On March 27, 2001, then-SOUTHCOM commander General Peter Pace testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that "a fully manned and functioning regional SIGINT Operating Center at Medina, Texas, is essential to support our AOR [Area of Responsibility] operations." Under "Plan Colombia," the Medina facility, then called the MRSOC and now "NSA Texas," NSA's Spanish linguists at Medina should have had FARC communications intercepts relating to the three and, likely, more American SIGINT operators being held hostage as their top priority. However, according to Spanish and Portuguese linguists at the MRSOC, hostage rescue SIGINT operations were of no concern to NSA.
At the time of the downing of the US SIGINT plane by the FARC in 2003, General Michael Hayden, now CIA director, was director of the NSA.
In July 1999, a US Army RC-7B/EO-5B Crazy Hawk airborne low-altitude SIGINT plane, a modified DeHavilland DH-7, crashed in Colombia killing all the US and Colombian intelligence personnel aboard. It was replaced by the Cessna Grand Caravan and the BAE Systems J-31 Jetstream, both used for intelligence collection missions, including SIGINT. An unmodified J-31 can seat 19 passengers while the Cessna Grand Caravan can handle 9 passengers.
Radio Suisse Romande (RSR) reported that the Colombian hostage "rescue" was, in reality, a staged event after a $20 million ransom was paid by the United States and France, and negotiated by Switzerland, to the FARC rebels. The videotaped "rescue" was made to look like a previous hostage release that was negotiated by Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez. The hostages were flown to a Colombian military base at Guaviare where the hostages were "freed." RSR reported, "the release of the 15 hostages for a high ransom was first negotiated, and after that a rescue operation was staged."
The veracity of the Colombian government in past "evidence" claims is questionable. A laptop computer that was claimed to have been discovered by Colombian forces during a raid on a FARC camp in Ecuador and containing "proof" of Venezuelan support for the rebels was later found to have been manufactured evidence. Colombia and the Bush administration had INTERPOL Secretary General Ron Noble, a former Bush 41 Justice Department official, vouch for the authenticity of the laptop's evidence after a contrived forensic "study" of the computer by INTERPOL "proved" the Venezuelan link.
Although Betancourt, a member of Colombia's Green Party, rejected the report that a ransom secured her release along with the other hostages, she also said if the report was true why not pay a ransom for their release. A Norwegian-Colombian, Alf Onshuus Nino, was released by FARC after a $200,000 ransom was paid. Nino's release came around the same time that Betancourt and the others were freed.
Swiss RSR journalist Frederich Blassel reported that FARC commander Gerardo Aguila Ramirez, aka "Cesar," was paid the $20 million and was allowed to be "captured" by Colombia in the "rescue." RSR's report was backed by the French online news daily MediaPart. MediaPart reported that the two FARC commanders would be given political asylum in France. There are other reports that Cesar and another FARC commander will be given new identities by either Spain, France, or Switzerland.
The $20 million was reported to have come from France, Colombia, and the United States. The hostage "rescue" was a propaganda coup for Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who was facing charges of complicity with right-wing drug cartels and paramilitaries; McCain, who was visiting Colombia when the hostages were freed; and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was facing a plunge in popularity polls in France. The freeing of Betancourt, a French national, was seen as a plus for Sarkozy. One person who was not hailed was Venezuela's Chavez, who had previously secured the release of hostages by FARC and began the hostage negotiation process with the rebel group.
However, last November, Uribe ended Chavez's role in the hostage negotiations, obviously acting under pressure from Washington and Brownfield, the former ambassador to Caracas who has no love for Chavez. Juan Carlos Lecompte, Betancourt's husband, accused Uribe of acting in a "brutal manner." Fabrice Delloye, Betancourt's ex-husband and father of her two children, told the Venezuelan press, "What outrages me about Uribe is his permanent hypocrisy. He is always looking for a pretext to stall the exchange of hostages for the imprisoned guerrillas. He never stopped putting obstacles in the way of previous efforts." Stall the hostage release was exactly what Uribe and Brownfield accomplished, just in time for McCain's visit to Bogota, an event that the American neocons seized upon to tout McCain's foreign policy bona fides.