U.S. Funds Mexican Wiretapping

In an increasing sign of Mexico's reliance on and willingness to cooperate with U.S. law enforcement, Mexico has been expanding its wiretapping -- without court orders. Funding for the program comes from the United States.

The expansion comes as President Felipe Calderon is pushing to amend Mexico's constitution to allow officials to tap phones without a judge's approval in some cases.

The $3 million program is the Communications Intercept System.

The system would allow authorities to track cell-phone users as they travel, according to the contract specifications. It would include extensive storage capacity and allow authorities to identify callers by voice. The system, scheduled to begin operation within the next month, was paid for by the U.S. State Department and sold by Verint Systems Inc., a politically connected company based in Melville, N.Y., that specializes in electronic surveillance.

Documents describing the upgrade suggest that the U.S. government could have access to information derived from the surveillance. Officials of both governments declined to comment on that possibility.


The state department acknowledges the U.S. funding:

"It is a government of Mexico operation, funded by the U.S.," said Susan Pittman, of the U.S. State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. Questions over its use should be directed to Mexico, she said.

But the information is being shared with the U.S.

Within the United States, legal experts say that if prosecutors have access to Mexican wiretaps, they could use the information in U.S. courts. Supreme Court decisions have held that Fourth Amendment protections against illegal wiretaps do not apply outside the United States, particularly if the surveillance is conducted by another country, said Georgetown University law professor David Cole.

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  • Display: Sort:
    The Hottest American Export (none / 0) (#1)
    by squeaky on Thu May 24, 2007 at 10:21:21 PM EST
    How to capture and torture anyone, anywhere in the world (except OBL); how to spy on your citizens using state of the art techonolgy and how to do it all so it's 100% legal.

    ah-HA! It's all clear NOW! (none / 0) (#2)
    by profmarcus on Thu May 24, 2007 at 11:27:37 PM EST
    amlo (andrés manuel lópez obrador) wouldn't have given the u.s. the time of day on a issue like this... in fact, he would probably would have had the u.s. officials who proposed it bodily removed... and, in case anyone had any doubt, THIS is the reason amlo "lost" the mexican presidential election last july, and now you can be SURE the u.s. had a hand in his defeat, and WHY the u.s. was so intent on having a conservative mexican president installed... disgusting...

    And, yes, I DO take it personally

    privacy, what privacy (none / 0) (#3)
    by Sumner on Thu May 24, 2007 at 11:58:22 PM EST
    We do have a head start here. These also may migrate to Mexico, too:

    "Senator Warns of Email Tax This Fall", seems to give them yet another pretext for monitoring.

    "Microsoft Wants To Identify All Web Surfers", shouldn't surprise us.

    or,  "a new crime of life imprisonment for using pirated software" with "more wiretaps for piracy investigations".

    there we go (none / 0) (#4)
    by Jen M on Fri May 25, 2007 at 05:47:18 AM EST
    exporting democracy and american values again

    i've had some additional thoughts (none / 0) (#5)
    by profmarcus on Fri May 25, 2007 at 12:21:09 PM EST
    there were two parts of the la times article that i inadvertently passed over last night...
    [T]he contract specifications say the system is designed to allow both governments to "disseminate timely and accurate, actionable information to each country's respective federal, state, local, private and international partners."

    Legal experts say that prosecutors with access to Mexican wiretaps could use the information in U.S. courts. U.S. Supreme Court decisions have held that 4th Amendment protections against illegal wiretaps do not apply outside the United States, particularly if the surveillance is conducted by another country, Georgetown University law professor David Cole said.

    it seems to me that both of those have HUGE implications and take me back to my previous research on the echelon project (here, here and here)...

    the first point tells me that information collected in either mexico OR the u.s. can end up in any hands that either government should decide to put it in, whether it's inside or outside the country, governmental or private sector, which, if that's truly what it's saying, is very deeply disturbing...

    secondly, if, as cole states, and i am sure he is correct, 4th amendment protections do not apply to information collected outside the u.s., then the countries who supposedly collaborate with the u.s. on echelon - canada, the uk, australia and new zealand - simply trade collected data to avoid domestic legal infringements (like fisa), an arrangement that sounds suspiciously like what we are setting up with mexico...

    And, yes, I DO take it personally