In September 1991 the U.S. Department of Defense compiled a list of individuals believed to be associated with Colombia's notorious Medellin drug cartel. There are 106 names on the newly declassified intelligence document, and they read like a who's who of thugs, assassins, midlevel traffickers and crooked attorneys. The cartel's ruthless kingpin, Pablo Escobar, was prominent on the list, of course, along with the former Panamanian dictator Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega. But the real head turner is item No. 82, which reads as follows: "Alvaro Uribe Velez--a Colombian politician and senator dedicated to collaboration with the Medellin cartel at high government levels. Uribe was linked to a business involved in narcotics activities in the U.S.... Uribe has worked for the Medellin cartel and is a close personal friend of Pablo Escobar Gaviria."
The Pentagon report portrays Uribe in a light sharply at variance with his current image as Washington's main ally in the U.S.- financed war on drugs in South America. But in those days, he was among dozens of Colombian pols who openly opposed the extradition of their drug-trafficking countrymen. Uribe has since changed his views--and, in fact, his government has sent scores of drug traffickers to the United States for prosecution since he took office.
The report was obtained by the National Security Archive, a Washington-based nongovernmental research group. The identity of the document's author was removed by Pentagon censors. The detailed thumbnail descriptions of the Medellin cartel's associates suggest that the data came from Colombian or U.S. counter-narcotics officials, and the text states at the beginning that the report "forwards profiles on the more important narco-terrorists contracted by the Colombian narcotic cartels." It is stamped CONFIDENTIAL NOFORN WNINTEL, meaning that its contents shouldn't be shared with foreign nationals. The U.S. ambassador to Colombia in 1991, Morris Busby, does not recall the document, and efforts to reach the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency liaison officer in Bogota in 1991, retired Army Col. James S. Roche Jr., failed to elicit a response. In a two-page written statement, the office of the Colombian president denied that Uribe had links of any kind to a business in the United States as asserted in the 1991 report. But the statement did not address the allegations that Uribe had worked for the Medellin cartel and was a close friend of Escobar, who was killed in a 1993 police raid.