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ARGENTINA | 08-02-2020 10:42

Streamlined AFI to mind its own business

Trustee Cristina Caamaño downsizes AFI intelligence budget (especially “reserve funds”), limits role in judicial investigations and seeks to salvage neglected AMIA files.

AFI intelligence trustee Cristina Caamaño has been a busy woman in the last couple of months, downsizing its budget (especially the “reserve expenses”) and limiting its role in judicial investigations. She also found time to report on the proper storage arrangements being made for the files on the 1994 terrorist bomb attack on the AMIA Jewish community centre.

Furthermore, she announced that the government would be reviewing the Mauricio Macri administration’s decision to make 500 agents permanent AFI employees. No detail escapes her attention – she questions the cable television football channels installed by previous AFI chief Gustavo Arribas and paid out of “reserve funds,” which total over a billion pesos without any audit.

The AFI central office’s electricity bills were also placed in that category. Macri converted much of the AFI budget into “reserve funds” via Decree 565/2016.

According to Macri’s 2020 budget presented last year, the reserve funds accounted for almost half the department’s allocation (1.5 billion out of 3,642,050,336 pesos). Caamaño is already promising President Alberto Fernández substantial cuts, which will be redirected to the campaign against hunger.

But over and above the details, Caamaño was unpleasantly surprised by a general administrative and procedural neglect with the appalling condition of the AMIA files an important example. She has set up a mechanism whereby AFI spending is accountable to an auditor from the SiGen comptroller’s office.

Officials in the Casa Rosada do not believe that these secret funds were only used for illegal espionage.

“We believe that parallel structures such as the trolls were thus funded,” said a source.

The staff will also be downsized as well as the budget, slashing AFI’s departmental offices from 105 to 65 with a similar reduction of staff (currently 1,405 employees). Those hired in the last five weeks of Macri’s presidency with monthly salaries of half a million pesos are receiving particular attention.

Meanwhile work on a new intelligence law to consolidate these structural changes is in progress, headed by Strategic Affairs Secretary Gustavo Beliz and Justice Minister Marcela Losardo. One central objective is to place this department (reporting directly to the Presidency until now) under the Defence and Security portfolios with wiretapping under the AttorneyGeneral’s office once Daniel Rafecas obtains Senate approval and can take charge.

According to presidential sources, the six-month trusteeship could be extended in order to complete the reordering. Caamaño, who had just retired as a prosecutor, is not thinking of staying beyond when Alberto Fernández decides to end the trusteeship but will go home with her mission accomplished.

These days Caamaño has to move in an armoured car. One day while coming out of AFI homeward, her car bumped into another, causing one of the side mirrors to drop off. When an employee presented for her signature a bill of over a million pesos for the repairs, she replied, raising her voice: “Sell that car, I don’t want it fixed, sell that car.”

As already reported by PERFIL, Caamaño found the AMIA files lying among broken glass and garbage soon after she took over AFI. She met with Diana Wassner and Adriana Reisfeld from the Memoria Activa association representing the families of the AMIA victims, which has accused the Macri administration of neglecting key evidence, as well as their lawyers and Rodrigo Borda and Paula Litvachky from CELS (Centre for Legal and Social Studies) human rights organisation.

At the meeting 10 days ago Caamaño told Wassner and Reisfeld about the discovery of wire-taps and documentation concerning the bomb destructions of both AMIA and the Israeli Embassy (1992). The information had been declassified by the government in 2015 and placed at the disposal of the courts – it consists of over 2,000 boxes of papers and 5,000 wiretaps recorded in VHS cassettes and videos, much of it still not analysed. Many files were found in a building with exposed wires, useless fire extinguishers and alarms, leaky roofs and broken windows among other defects where they were deteriorating rapidly. Caamaño showed the Memoria Activa leaders images of the building’s condition, explaining that some 30 people from the AFI staff had been working overtime for the past week to rehabilitate the place as a high priority.

Speaking to El Destape Radio, Wassner recalled that at the time of the declassification in 2015, amid the general overhaul of then SIDE intelligence in the wake of special AMIA prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s death, the files were in an equally calamitous condition.

The UFI AMIA unit under Sebastián Basso, Santiago Eyherabide and Roberto Salum has managed to digitalise part of the documentation but over half remains unstudied and unprotected. The President has expressed his determination to end this paralysis, advancing in the investigation of the attack and completing the study of the declassified data. Finally, the limitation of AFI’s role in judicial investigations was formalised by a resolution published in the Official Gazette on January 15. According to the text, to which PERFIL had access, spies may not be summoned by the courts save in cases of “complex crimes” involving organised crime such as drug-trafficking.

The resolution was defined by a meeting between President Fer nández,Cabinet Chief Santiago Cafiero and Caamaño, who was a co-signatory. The text criticises the “flexibility” of the use of AFI agents by federal judges in judicial investigations under the Macri administration to “invent” cases at times, implying that as often as not the spies used the judges rather than vice versa.

The resolution also serves to end the intervention of intelligence agents in wire-tapping and to repeal the aforementioned Decree 565/2016 converting departmental expenses into “reserve funds.” Caamaño defines AFI as a national intelligence service whose main function is to prevent terrorist activities and crimes which disturb the constitutional order.

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Rosario Ayerdi

Rosario Ayerdi

Redactora de Diario Perfil. Mail: rayerdi@perfil.com

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