“Everything I could learn about the court was of utmost importance to the agency,” Florez, 33, said in an interview with The Washington Post.
Florez said she never questioned the motivation behind the operation, which prosecutors now say was designed to cripple the court’s investigation of corrupt congressmen, most of them allies of then-President Alvaro Uribe. Indeed, the intelligence agency — the Department of Administrative Security, or DAS — was under the control of the president.
“You have a mission, and since it is legitimate, it is legal,” said Florez, who is now cooperating with prosecutors. “I was happy to be able to do the job the institution was asking me to do.”
Her operation, carried out from 2007 to 2009, was not only illegal but, according to Colombia’s attorney general’s office, designed to find incriminating evidence on judges and debilitate their investigation of the president’s congressional allies. The ensuing scandal has led to criminal investigations against Uribe’s top advisers and ensnared the former president himself, who served from 2002 to 2010.
A close U.S. ally in the war against drug trafficking, Uribe’s conduct is now under investigation by a special congressional commission. He denies giving orders to infiltrate the court.
Prosecutors say that DAS’s managers and agents participated in a series of illegal spying operations that over much of the past decade targeted hundreds of Colombians, including opposition politicians, journalists, human rights groups and even U.N. officials. Phones were tapped, agents followed the children of government opponents, and extensive dossiers on dozens of people were put together, according to investigators.
But it was the infiltration of the Supreme Court, an operation called Stairway, that has most astonished Colombians.
Colombia’s Mata Hari
The face of Stairway is Florez, who is officially listed in DAS documents as Agent Y66. To those she met at the court, she had another name: Samantha Rojas. To the Colombian press, she has become “Mata Hari,” the agent whose wholesome looks and mild manner made her well suited to recruiting informants.
She started her work, in fact, by renewing a relationship with an old flame, a policeman who worked in the government’s security apparatus and helped her make the initial contacts in the bunkerlike building where the court is housed. With his help, she set about meeting cleaning ladies, chauffeurs, bodyguards — people she eventually recruited to help her “penetrate” the court, as she put it.