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Ya think? U.S. spying on Mexico?

11 July 2013

… of course the U.S. is spying on Mexico.

The Melbourne (Australia) Herald-Sun has short overview of what’s the tip of the iceberg (to use a cliche):

nsa-spying-logoThe newspaper Excelsior reported that the government of then-president Felipe Calderon struck a deal with the US State Department in 2007 allowing the installation of a system to intercept, process, analyze and store phone calls as well as emails and web chats.

The federal attorney general’s office “is reviewing the documents and an investigation is underway” to determine if a crime was committed, interior ministry spokesman Eduardo Sanchez told a news conference.

The system made its way to Mexico under the now-defunct Federal Investigations Agency (AFI) and the federal attorney general’s office, in the name of combating drug trafficking and terrorism, the report said.

The equipment was sold by Verint Systems under a $US3 million ($A3.29 million) contract, the report said.

Sanchez said investigators are verifying whether the contract exists and what its status is.

Calderon’s 2006-2012 administration cooperated deeply with the United States in the fight against drug cartels, with Washington earmarking $1.9 billion in aid that included law enforcement training and equipment.

President Enrique Pena Nieto, who took office in December, vowed to continue the security cooperation but with one major change: He now requires US law enforcement agencies to filter all security matters through the powerful interior ministry instead of a previous arrangement that allowed them to deal directly with individual counterparts.

What’s not being reported much outside of Mexico is that the U.S. spying has long been known. While the history of U.S. espionage in Mexico goes back to the first U.S. ambassador, Joel Roberts Poinsett (he who stole the flowers from the Baby Jesus), and “modern” intelligence gathering began under the Wilson administration, and — without a doubt — the C.I.A. was up to their eyeballs in Mexican affairs after World War II , it was the “Merida Initiative” that gave the U.S. carte-blanche to start treating Mexico — and Mexicans — as Proceso reported (14 November 2010 .. my translation here):

Under Felipe Calderón’s administration, the United States has done what it always aspired to: embed espionage agents in Mexico City. It was the rise of drug trafficking in the country that opened the door for U.S. intelligence agencies, predominantly military, to operate from the Federal District without even the fig-leaf of diplomatic cover.

Establishment of the Office of Binational Intelligence (OBI) – which began with discussions under President Vicente Fox Quesada – was authorized by Calderon, after negotiations with Washington in meetings attended by the director of the Center for Investigation and National Security (CISEN), Guillermo Valdés Castellanos, without taking into account military objections.

The U.S. spying operation was a huge affair, with “fusion centers” in the United States and… right next door to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, so it was kind of hard to miss.

FinFisher, described as a “commercial network intrusion malware… developed by UK-based company Gamma Internationalhad been detected on Mexican computers earlier this year, and extensively reported on. That FinFisher may have been used to mine data FOR the United States is the question now… not that U.S. espionage and eavesdropping is something new.

On a personal note, I know it’s slightly paranoid, but after reading the report from the Citizens’ Lab at the University of Toronto about FinFisher (“For Their Eyes Only“… pdf), as a start, I turned by web-camera to the wall. FinFisher is, it seems, capable of capturing data through the web-cam, even when it appears to be off. And my computer has been suspiously slow of late… but that may have to do with the heat and humidity (I hope).

So far, the response from the Peña Nieto administration has been … shall we say… tepid? Kiko was quoted on Wednesday as saying ” if allegations were proven that the United States had spied on its southern neighbor, it would be “totally unacceptable.” (the actual statement in Spanish was couched in the pretérito imperfecto subjunctivo… suggesting an action in the past that may or may not be continuing.

One very good possible result. Trust in the United States is at a world-wide low point. With the recent state elections proving a disaster for PAN, and probably convincing the left that a PRD-PAN coalition is a recipe for disaster, perhaps the Camera and the Senate will rethink the rushed pro-U.S. initiatives, both the opening of PEMEX to foreign “investors” (as opposed to the owners… the Mexican people) and the plan supported by real estate firms and foreigners to open the public beaches to privatization in foreign hands.

Here’s hoping.

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