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article imageOp-Ed: NSA has a special fusion center in Mexican U.S. embassy

By Ken Hanly     Feb 25, 2014 in Politics
Mexico - Edward Snowden's leaks reveal that the U.S. National Security Agency had spied on President Felipe Calderon, his cabinet, as well as president Enrique Nieto.
In August of 2009 an operation with the politically incorrect code name Whitetamale hacked into Mexico's Public Security Secretariat which is responsible for policing drug trafficking. Another operation with the code Eveningeasel collected Mexican phone calls and texts. As Der Spiegel, the German news magazine, put it: The NSA has been systematically eavesdropping on the Mexican government for years. It hacked into the president's public email account and gained deep insight into policymaking and the political system. Eveningeasel, Whitetamale and another program Flatliquid were conducted from the San Antonio Texas office of the NSA. However, other Snowden documents show internet traffic was captured and analyzed at a diplomatic post in Mexico city. The documents show that the US embassy in Mexico City also was a host to agents of the NSA/CIA Special Collection Service, a black budget program whose goal is to bug foreign embassies as well as government facilities.
Recently, a declassified memo shows that the NSA actually has a secret office in the U.S. embassy in Mexico City. The facility is called a fusion center used to combine and then share intelligence with different agencies. Many already exist in the U.S. itself. The centers were developed after 9/11 as a response to the lack of sharing of information by different government agencies: They are designed to promote information sharing at the federal level between agencies such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. military, and state- and local-level government. As of July 2009, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security recognized at least 72 fusion centers
The fusion center in Mexico City was confirmed by a 2010 Dept. of Defense memorandum obtained by a George Washington University group under the Freedom of Information Act.
Although there are also joint U.S./Mexican intelligence centers the fusion center in the U.S. embassy was off limits to Mexicans. Support for the center comes from the Department of Defense and is channeled through the US Northern Command (NORTH-COM) that is responsible for protecting American interests in North America.
Even though the memorandum shows the fusion center exists, the NSA uses a tactic so common that it even has a name, the Glomar response. The NSA refuses to affirm or deny that more documents exist about the center when a Freedom of Information Act is requested. Yet the Obama administration claims to be promoting sunshine and transparency.The NSA even is backing away from any admission that the fusion center exists. This is quite reminiscent of responses to questions about CIA drone programs in Pakistan. NORTHCOM claims that any further material remains classified.
Apparently one reason that there can be no discussion of the center is that the center is involved with HVT's or high value targets usually understood as terrorist leaders or in the case of Mexico as Michael Evans director of the National Security Archive Mexico suggests, leaders of drug cartels, human smugglers and the like. However, Snowden documents show that the HVT's included Mexican president Nieto and the same categorization was assigned to spying on other world leaders.
Evans points out that the U.S. has been following a two-track policy. On the one hand there are joint U.S./ Mexican intelligence centers and on the other a secret U.S. center and intelligence gathering process not involving Mexicans and even spying on them. The Mexicans naturally are angry and want to investigate the U.S. fusion center.
The center may not be worth all the aggravation and bad relations it has produced. In the U.S. a two year study by a bipartisan Senate Committee found that not only did the centers intelligence gathering practices violate civil liberties and privacy rights, but they often gathered data that had nothing to do with terrorism and was often worthless. Between $299 million and $1.4 billion had been spent on the the centers.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about US Mexico relations, NSA spying in Mexio, President Nieto
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