Despite all that notoriety, the Washington-based think tank Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) has been fighting the CIA since 2004 to force the agency to turn over documents that may reveal its links to a vigilante group in Bogotá that helped track down Escobar. That group was PEPES (People Persecuted by Pablo Escobar), which was created by rival drug smugglers and illegal right-wing militias and maintained regular relations with the Colombian police and U.S. drug agents. PEPES harassed, tortured and killed Escobar’s relatives, associates and lawyers until police shot Escobar in 1993.
After PEPES disbanded, many of its members went on to found the illegal paramilitary group United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), which has killed thousands of civilians suspected of supporting leftist guerrillas. Many AUC leaders are now under U.S. indictment for drug-trafficking, which IPS researcher Paul Paz y Mino calls blowback from short-sighted U.S. decisions in the hunt for Escobar.
Curious about ties between the CIA and PEPES, IPS sued the CIA in 2006 for making a legally inadequate response to an IPS FOIA request filed in 2004. IPS complained that the CIA improperly redacted the documents it turned over and failed to perform a complete search for records on Escobar and PEPES.
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth ruled that the CIA’s redactions were justified, but that the CIA
Judge Lamberth ruled that the Freedom of Inforamation Act requires the CIA, or any agency, to
He also ruled that searching only for “Escobar” and not for “Pablo Escobar” was inadequate, rejecting the CIA’s claim that even admitting the existing of records containing the name “Pablo Escobar” could harm national security, as Escobar has been dead for nearly 20 years.
CIA Must Extend Search for Pablo Escobar Docs (by Ryan Abbott, Courthouse News Service)
Institute for Policy Studies v. CIA (U.S. District Court, D.C., 2012) (pdf)
Lawsuit s\Seeks to Unearth CIA Ties to Paramilitaries (by Steven Dudley, Seattle Times)