AP: US spy operation targeted senior Venezuelan officials

The United States has allegedly targeted senior Venezuelan officials with an espionage program as part of a long-running covert operation by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)

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For years, the DEA has sent agents to Venezuela to secretly record situations that could lead to drug trafficking prosecutions against senior Venezuelan government officials, according to a secret official memo obtained by the Associated Press (AP).

The 15-page document, dated 2018, stated that several high-ranking officials, including Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, were targeted as part of the so-called “Operation Money Badger” operation, adding, “It is imperative that this operation be unilateral and without informing the Venezuelan authorities.”



Two sources close to the matter said the memo was an “aggressive expansion” of “Operation Money Badger,” which the DEA and prosecutors in Miami launched in 2013 to investigate around 100 Venezuelans.

“We are the world’s police”

AP reported that the US has acknowledged from the beginning that the plan raises the question of violations of international law.

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“We don’t want to say this openly, but we are the world’s police,” Wes Tabor, formerly the DEA attaché in Venezuela, said in a statement.

Tabor, who did not comment on the operation, noted that unilateral and covert operations can be effective in countries like Venezuela.

“If these countries are rogue regimes and the lives of US citizens are at stake, we are not doing anything that violates the laws of the country. In the case of Venezuela, they are drowning us in drugs, and that is worth the risk.”

Did the US ignore international law with this operation?

AP reported that there is no mechanism in place to hold the US legally accountable for this, but the US ignored international law with this operation.

Evan Criddle, Professor of Law at the College of William & Mary in Virginia, pointed out that international law prohibits such covert operations without the consent of the targeted country, and said he expects the US to be embarrassed, Venezuelan diplomats to raise objections and potentially undermine future cooperation as a result of the disclosure of this correspondence.

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Correspondence published by mistake

On the other hand, it was noted in the news report that the correspondence in question was “accidentally” published on the website of the Manhattan Attorney General’s Office last year during the trial of two former DEA officials.

Although the document was removed from the site within hours, the attorney general’s office was forced to give it to AP at the insistence of the AP reporter.

AP did not include the original memo in its report, as it could expose local people involved in the operation.

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