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Argentina's President Takes Aim At Country's Intelligence Agency


The drama in Argentina keeps growing. We've been tracking the story of a prosecutor found dead just before he could offer explosive testimony. Now the president of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, has addressed her nation on TV, and she is proposing to disband the country's domestic intelligence agency. She said the agency is behind the prosecutor's death. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro is covering this story.

Lourdes, why did she take aim at the country's intelligence service?

LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO, BYLINE: There are so many twists and turns in this very confusing case. The public reason she gave last night was that the agency was the legacy of the very brutal dictatorship here and had essentially gotten out of control. It has sole domestic power to do wiretaps, for example. And she said its power needed to be reformed.

Now, her fight with the intelligence secretariat, as it's known here, seems to go back to that slain prosecutor you mentioned, Alberto Nisman. He had been given many, many hours of tapes of wiretaps that clearly could only have come from someone inside the spy agency. Those tapes form the basis of his most recent report that he was about to present to Congress in which he alleged that the president herself and members of her government were part of a conspiracy to obstruct the investigation of a 1994 terror attack that killed 85 people here and wounded hundreds more.

INSKEEP: So we have this man who actually was pointing fingers at the president herself, not necessarily intelligence agencies. Now the president points at the intelligence agency?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah, she basically says that one master spy is behind the death of Alberto Nisman, someone she had fired recently, saying he had been feeding Nisman the wrong information about that investigation on her. So she basically says that this is all to do with the internal politics of the spying agency and not to do with the larger investigation, of course, that has remained unresolved into that 1994 bombing.

INSKEEP: So did the president offer any evidence for her allegations against her own government's intelligence agency?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: No, she did not. In fact, she went even further. Last night, she again fingered another suspect - the man who gave Nisman the gun that was found next to his dead body, all this with absolutely no proof. This is a sitting president making allegations to a national audience while there's actually an active investigation underway. So this all seems like it's being tried in the court of public opinion and not in a court of law.

INSKEEP: Are people in Argentina able to talk about anything else at this point?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Absolutely not. Everywhere I go, everyone has different theory about who killed Nisman, who was behind the bombing in 1994, if it was the government, if it was the rogue intelligence services, if it was the CIA - they've gotten a look in. Everyone has been implicated. And you have to understand that this is all based around that very terrible attack in 1994 that was on that Jewish community center. It's as if 9/11 had remained unresolved. It was the worst terror attack in Argentine history.

In the absence of any proof, what you have here is incredible amounts of speculation and people saying that they feel they have no trust in the institutions, no trust in the government and that if Alberto Nisman could've been killed - of course there's been no proof that he's been killed, but people suppose that he's been killed - then it could happen to them. So it's absolutely riveting this country.

INSKEEP: NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro is in Buenos Aires. Thanks very much.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.