(What's the evidence of these secret contacts between Washington and this rebel leader?) The evidence is in a summary of two meetings in Costa Rica in 1998 and involved US diplomats from the State Department meeting with this rebel leader. The summary is very clear. (Is this a backchannel peace negotiation or is it the US negotiating with terrorists whiach it has a public policy of not doing?) it's a bit of both. The US was trying to gain the release of hostages held by the FARC, but the US also has to be involved in sorting out illegal drug trade, which the FARC is heavily involved in. (Is this Washington then taking a major risk by opening up this back channel?) The FARC was a regarded as a foreign terrorist group. The risk is that they are violating the spirit of their own anti-terrorism policy, but that was a risk they felt worth taking at the time. (Why is this relevant today then?) well it was a unique, unprecedented back channel meet with Colombian insurgents and it's a marker of how much things have changed. Uribe has not pursued peace talks with the FARC. (What are the US interests in this region?) in Colombia US interest is focused on counter-narcotics. The US has energy interests throughout the region and Colombia is in a volatile region.