Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Being really careful with your sources: FARC, Fausta, and fact-checking...

International terrorists with nukes or dirty radiological bombs are the stuff of nightmares and Harrison Ford movies.

So when they get tied with a known terrorist group (FARC) and one of Washington's favorite bad boys (Venezuela's Chavez), people get really nervous. Hence, Fausta's Blog:

During Saturday's raid against the FARC in Ecuador, the Colombian army seized three computers loaded with incriminating information against Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Rafael Correa of Ecuador. The computers belonged to Raul Reyes, the FARC's #2 man.

The Colombian Government's Official Website (in Spanish) details the findings:

The Venezuelan government paid $300 million to the FARC on February 14 this year.

Venezuela had agreed to ship old rifles to the FARC during that same meeting.

The computer files show the acquisition and sale of 50 kilograms of uranium. The Colombian government has created a task force to locate this uranium.

The information in the computers reconfirm the FARC's ties to the drug trade.

Other docoments show that Raul Reyes had met with Ecuador's minister of internal security and that they discussed Mr Correa's "interest in making official relations with the Farc".

Of course, any fractious situation involving Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela is both (a) important to the US for a whole variety of reasons and (b) most Americans know exactly jackshit about it.

Which means we really have to be able to depend on the accuracy if not the objectivity of our news sources.

Thus, take a look at Washington Monthly's treatment of the same situation:

FARC'S URANIUM....Over the weekend, Colombia launched a raid on FARC guerrilla camps just across the border in Ecuador. Among other things, they claim they recovered a laptop computer "suggesting" that Hugo Chavez has recently given FARC $300 million. Plus this from CNN:

Speaking at a news conference, Gen. Oscar Naranjo [...] said other evidence in the computers suggests FARC purchased 50 kilograms of uranium this month.

Huh. That's a mighty peculiar accusation to just toss out with no further explanation, isn't it? What exactly does "suggest" mean here? And what kind of uranium are we supposedly talking about? 50 kilos of HEU would be a scary thing indeed. 50 kilos of raw ore would be a joke. Perhaps Bloomberg can shed some light:

Naranjo said the FARC, as the group is known, was seeking to buy 50 kilos of uranium for bomb making with aim of getting involved in international terrorism.

Ah. "Seeking" uranium. Anybody have the exact quote? Associated Press, maybe?

"When they mention negotiations for 50 kilos of uranium this means that the FARC are taking big steps in the world of terrorism to become a global aggressor. We're not talking of domestic guerrilla but transnational terrorism," said Naranjo, without giving more details.

Okey dokey. They "mentioned" "negotiations." And no further details are forthcoming. Why do I have the funny feeling they never will?

Puts a different spin on things, doesn't it?

The International Herald Tribune's coverage doesn't even mention the uranium, focusing instead on the $300 million:

BOGOTA, Colombia: Colombia's police chief said Monday that documents recovered from a slain rebel leader's computer reveal financial ties between Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Colombia's largest guerrilla group, including a recent message that mentions US$300 million in Venezuelan support for the rebels.

The official, Gen. Oscar Naranjo, didn't say if there was any indication in the Feb. 14 message that Venezuela actually delivered this money to the rebels.

Another document found in the laptop belonging to slain rebel leader Raul Reyes suggests financial ties between Chavez and the rebels dating back to 1992, Naranjo said. At the time, Chavez was jailed in Venezuela for leading a coup attempt, and was plotting the comeback that eventually led to his election as president in 1998.

"A note recovered from Raul Reyes speaks of how grateful Chavez was for the 100 million pesos (about US$150,000 at the time) that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, delivered to Chavez when he was in prison," said Naranjo told a news conference.

Reyes, the FARC's main spokesman, was among the rebels killed Saturday in a Colombian commando raid on their camp just across the border in Ecuador, infuriating Chavez and his ally, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa.

Chavez has called Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe a "mob boss" and a "liar." In return the Colombian government has expressed its concern at links between Venezuela and the FARC.

So now I'm wondering--if the uranium is mentioned at all on the laptop, why isn't the IHT telling me about it?

Matt Drudge at least covers both subjects with some sense of ambiguity:

The documents on the computer of Raul Reyes, the second in command of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, indicate that Venezuela provided the guerrillas with at least $300 million and would help Chavez in the event of a U.S. attack on Venezuela.

Naranjo said the FARC, as the group is known, was seeking to buy 50 kilos of uranium for bomb making with aim of getting involved in international terrorism.

On the other hand, Al Jazeera has the $300 million but (again) not the uranium reference:

Alvaro Uribe, the Colombian president, has said he will ask the International Criminal Court to try Hugo Chavez, his Venezuelan counterpart, for "sponsoring and financing genocide" over its links to the Farc rebel group.

The threat comes amid a growing diplomatic row that began after Colombia raided a Farc base in Ecuador at the weekend.
"Colombia is proposing that the International Criminal Court charge Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, for the support and financing of genocide," Uribe said.

Colombia says documents found on a Farc leader killed in Saturday's raid indicate Venezuela gave Farc $300m.
Venezuela says Colombia is lying about the documents.

Moral of the story: Where you get your news shapes what your news will be.

That's not a moral without implications. Either FARC was or was not attempting to acquire uranium, and did or did not manage to do so.

What troubles me is not so much the challenge of ferreting out the details on your own (which is time-consuming enough), but the increasing tendency for people to choose and trust their news sources based on ideological grounds rather than factual accuracy.

So what's the solution? I haven't got a clue.

And that's the problem.

Worse: I still have no idea whether or not FARC has 50kg of weapons-grade uranium or not.


Alan Coffey said...


Latest docs.... In Spanish

Anonymous said...

Since the whole premise of the news story is incorrect, it is a set up. The FARC are a bunch of 3rd world freedom fighters, terrorists if you will in the vein of Che Guevara, Venezuela paid 3000 million to Sarkozy in France who transferred it to them in the conditional release of hostages. What bullshit. The layers of bullshit and disinformation get deeper and deeper. Why not attack Sarkozy? Brian

Anonymous said...

The only people in the region with weapons grade uranium are the Brazilians and Colombians. Uribe's government has some very ambitious plans. That is a fact you can look up.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Libertarian will reveal all today in his letter to Senator Biden. And Letters from Argentina.

Fausta said...

Point well taken. Just make sure to follow the link at my post and note that the Colombian government is the one who found this information in the seized computers, they have created a task force to find said uranium, and have forwarded this information to the International Court of Justice.

Anonymous said...

Hi Fausta, Yeah, I read tham and not to be impolite, but that is BS too. The only people with access to that kind of stuff down there are the narco-traffickers connected to Uribe's government. And De Silva who bouhgt suke subs from France. Take some time to read the posts about them. If I get into the details of the drug connections with Exxon, or the 100,000 acre farm that the Bushes were just "granted" in Uraguay, I'll probably get killed.