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Argentina's President Dissolves Intelligence Agency, Citing Prosecutor's Death

Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez unveiled her plan to replace her country's intelligence service with a new agency. She delivered a televised speech while seated in a wheelchair in Buenos Aires. Reuters/Landov hide caption

toggle caption Reuters/Landov

Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez unveiled her plan to replace her country's intelligence service with a new agency. She delivered a televised speech while seated in a wheelchair in Buenos Aires.

Reuters/Landov

One week after an Argentine prosecutor was found dead on the eve of his testimony about an alleged government cover-up of a terrorist attack, President Cristina Fernandez has announced the dissolution of her government's intelligence agency.

Fernandez said she plans to shut down the SI, the Secretariat of Intelligence, in favor of a newly created agency, the Federal Intelligence Agency. She said it's time to reform the intelligence service because the existing one "has not served the national interests."

Fernandez announced the change in a national address Monday night, appearing on television while seated in a wheelchair next to a table holding a framed photograph of her with her late husband, former President Nestor Kirchner.

It's the latest twist in a story that stretches back to the 1994 bombing of the Argentine-Israeli Mutual Association, in which 85 people were killed.

The lead investigator in that case, appointed after years of suspicions of a conspiracy, was Alberto Nisman, who recently accused Fernandez and others of making a deal with Iran. He said the government wouldn't punish "at least two former Iranians in the case in order to further Argentina's 'commercial, political and geopolitical interests,' " as NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro reported.

Days after he filed a criminal complaint against Fernandez and others and sought to freeze some $23 million in assets, Nisman was found in his apartment, dead of a single gunshot to the head.

As we reported, "Officials say they also found a gun, but no note that might indicate his death was a suicide, according to local daily Clarin."

Even as an initial autopsy found no proof of outside involvement in the prosecutor's death, investigators were still treating it as suspicious. No gunpowder was found on Nisman's hands, and a locksmith said that the back door to Nisman's apartment was open. His testimony was later disputed by the dead man's mother who has said she partially unlocked the door before the locksmith's arrival.

And Fernandez raised even more questions, NPR's Garcia-Navarro reported, when she "took to social media to say that she now also did not believe Nisman had committed suicide. She wrote, 'They used him while he was alive and then they needed him dead.' "

Authorities say a close associate has stated he gave Nisman the gun that killed him. Fernandez added a new wrinkle to the story by casting further suspicion on the man, Garcia-Navarro reports. She says Fernandez claims that man "is related to the media group Clarin — an old foe of the Kirchners."

The latest developments will provide even more fodder to conspiracy theorists and others who have suggested there was more to the story of Nisman's death.

And Fernandez's dramatic appearance will also be the subject of rumor. When word came out that she had fractured her ankle last month, the differing reports faced scrutiny that included a comparison of differing explanations for her health as well as a thumbnail psychological profile of the president by a political science professor.

Correction Jan. 26, 2015

An earlier version of this post said authorities were trying to determine where the gun that killed Nisman came from. An associate of Nisman's has said he gave him the gun. The earlier version also said testimony by a locksmith that Nisman's door was unlocked undermined the theory of suicide. The testimony was later disputed by Nisman's mother, who has said she partially unlocked the door before the locksmith arrived.

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