Spying scandal touches Alvaro Uribe's inner circle as Colombian president set to leave office

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — A domestic spying scandal has reached Alvaro Uribe's inner circle, complicating the legacy of the popular two-term Colombian president who leaves office Saturday with 75 percent approval ratings.

Prosecutors have been questioning his closest advisers in recent weeks over allegations they illegally ordered warrantless wiretapping of the conservative president's political enemies by the DAS domestic spy agency.

Uribe's chief of staff, Bernardo Moreno, was deposed last week after jailed former DAS intelligence chief Fernando Tabares said Moreno told him in late 2007 that "the president was interested in having the DAS keep him informed" about four targets.

According to Tabares' sworn deposition, Moreno listed the targets as the Supreme Court; two opposition senators, Gustavo Petro and Piedad Cordoba; and investigative journalist Daniel Coronell.

Moreno did not respond to repeated attempts by The Associated Press to seek comment on Tabares' accusation. But in an interview with the newspaper El Tiempo on Sunday, he denied ordering any illegal espionage.

The DAS, short for the Department of Administrative Security, answers directly to the president but has been so discredited that President-elect Juan Manuel Santos plans a radical reform.

Most politically explosive in the scandal, which broke early last year, is the targeting of the Supreme Court. It has been at war with Uribe since it began prosecuting members of Congress in late 2006, most of them close Uribe allies, on charges of abetting and benefiting from illegal far-right militias responsible for Colombia's most egregious rights abuses.

To date, 21 lawmakers have been jailed in the paramilitary scandal, with 15 convicted and sentenced to prison terms of up to 40 years, chiefly for criminal conspiracy but some for crimes including murder. In addition, 54 are under investigation.