Colombia wants explanation for US electronic spying

Colombia has expressed concern about reports it was the target of US electronic surveillance and will seek an explanation from its close ally.

The foreign ministry, in a statement late Tuesday, said Colombia rejected "acts of espionage that violate people's right to privacy and international conventions on telecommunications."

"Colombia will ask the government of the United States of America to give the corresponding explanations," it said.

The US ambassador to Colombia, Michael McKinley, said he would respond to the Colombian government through diplomatic channels.

"We understand the expressions of concern and the fact is we have an obligation to respond through diplomatic channels to our partners, and among those nations is Colombia," he said on RCN radio.

The foreign ministry statement followed a report by the Brazilian newspaper O Globo that said Colombia was one of the prime targets in Latin America of US electronic surveillance operations.

The report was based on material leaked by Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who disclosed that the agency was secretly gathering phone logs and Internet data on a massive scale.

Through its so-called PRISM Internet surveillance program, the NSA "lifted data on oil and military purchases in Venezuela, energy and drugs in Mexico, in addition to mapping the movements of the (leftist) Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia," O Globo said.

The NSA can present secret court orders to Internet firms like Google and Facebook to gain access to emails, online chats, pictures, files and videos uploaded by foreign users.

President Barack Obama's administration has defended the surveillance programs, saying they have helped to foil dozens of terror plots and were carried out with the approval of high-ranking Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

The documents showed "steady data collection in Colombia between 2008 and the first quarter of this year," O Globo said.

The data include telephone calls, emails and satellite intercepts, it added.

Washington has been helping Bogota combat drug trafficking and illegal armed groups through Plan Colombia, a military cooperation program under which Colombia has received more than $8 billion since 2000.