Small Wars Journal

Mexican Cartel Strategic Note No. 2

Colombian Intelligence (Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad - DAS) Compromised by Drug Traffickers1

Intelligence Pulse: On 18 September 2011, the newspaper Semana obtained records of the identities of all 6,800 DAS (Colombian intelligence) officials, including undercover agents and their missions, and noted that thousands of intelligence documents were also leaked. The current director of the DAS confirmed the leaks, stating that DAS officials who stole information sold it for personal profit. Semana alleges that the intelligence was passed on to various drug kingpins. President Santos has said he plans the closure of DAS by November 2011.1

Analysis: While this note may not specifically pertain to the Mexican cartels, it has been included in this series to show the need for robust OPSEC (operational security) and counter-intelligence programs for Western Hemispheric nations threatened by cartel and gang threats. The government of Colombia is considered very sophisticated in responding to these threats given its initial experiences with the Medellin and Cali cartels dating back to the 1980s. This incident represents a severe blow to Colombian intelligence gathering and covert operations capabilities.2 Further, well known linkages exist between the narcotics traffickers and criminal groups in Mexico and Colombia and their sharing of intelligence gathering tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs). Similar threat potentials directed at Mexican and American intelligence organizations focused on the Mexican cartels and the criminal insurgencies taking place in their own respective territories must be considered. These potentials exist for all areas of Mexico and increasingly throughout the US with major threat concentrations in Texas and within the border zones of California, Arizona, and New Mexico.


1. This intelligence pulse— originally titled “Colombia - DAS officials leak intelligence to drug traffickers for profit” — was provided with the permission of Samuel Logan, Director, Southern Post (, and a SWJ El Centro Fellow.

2. Additional reporting suggests that most of this information was leaked in 2009 and that the ongoing breach of security at DAS has continued. See Travis Mannon, “Colombia’s intelligence chief takes responsibility for massive information leak.” Colombia Reports.  Monday, 19 September 2011,