Over 5 years of contractual relationship with the company Hacking Team, the Cisen (Center for Investigation and National Security) presented before the Judicial Power over 2 thousand requests for espionage. Most of the during the government of Enrique Peña Nieto
Between October 2010 and October 2015 the Cisen solicited to the Judicial Power of the Federation 2 thousand and 74 permits to intervene communications using technology of the specialized firm in espionage Hacking Team.
During the government of Felipe Calderón, the intelligence entity ascribed to the office of the Secretary of the Interior signed the first contract with the transnational with its headquarters at Milan, Italy.
Despite that it was the PAN government which started and injected most of the resources to the espionage project (in total it spent 980 thousand euros), it was the PRI-Affiliated government of Enrique Peña Nieto (who on his side disbursed 410 thousand euros) that profited most of the software developed by Hacking Team:
According to the information given to Contralinea by the Cisen itself, as a response to the information request of access to information 0410000037715, while the aftermath of the Calderon administration, from October 2010 to 2012, the security entity asked permits to perform 249 interventions, during the first 3 years of the government of Peña Nieto the number rose to 1 thousand 825 cases.
In 2010 two requests were made; in 2011, 33, and in 2012 214. Once the Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI) was back at the Mexican presidency the number skyrocketed: in 2013 the Cisen made 530 requests; in 2014 726 and until October 2015 it performed 569.
“In 2015 the Federal Specialized Criminal Court for Searches, Entrenchments and Communication Interventions received 1 thousand 582 requests of communication tapping, reveals the Annual Report of Labors 2015 of the Council of the Federal Judiciary, without specifying the related authority”, reports the column Agenda of Corruption, i.e. one third of the aforementioned petitions originated of the Cisen specifically to intervene with the technology of Hacking Team.
“The intervention in communications is only pertinent in some of the alleged cases foreseen (sic) in the article 5 of the National Security Act”, responds baldly the entity to justify the reasons of such requests.
The cited article of the law issued in 2005 refers to the “threats to the national security”, whose ambiguity has been pointed out by jurists and specialists in this area. According to the National Security Act virtually any person, foreign or Mexican citizen, could represent a “threat” to the State and thus be subject to “legal” espionage.
Concerning the identity of the supervised persons by the devices purchased to Hacking Team, the Cisen highlights that “the information and the materials of any kind derived from an intervention of private authorized communications will invariably have a CONFIDENTIAL character” (sic).
The release of the motives and names of those who have been spied on by the Cisen through the means of the HT will have to resolve it at the National Institute of Access to Information and Protection of Data (judicial review 0415/16).
Osorio Chong, contradicted by the Cisen
On the 6th of July 2015, the world woke up with the name Hacking Team linked to several governments. The security of the espionage firm had been breached and the list of its clients exposed, among them was the administration of Enrique Peña Nieto.
Mexico was being exposed as the major buyer of technology to intervene into communications.
Then Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, Secretary of the Interior denied publicly the relations with the Italian company and the federal Mexican government. He simply denied the veracity of the leaks.
Months after the own security body of security subjected to his office admitted the relation: in a response to the information request 0410000023815, the Cisen delivered to Contralinea all contracts signed with Hacking Team. The official information confirmed the diffused data after the paradoxical hack suffered by HT.
The contracts specify the dates and amounts. They reveal that the millionaire relation between Hacking Team and the Mexican federal government rose in the midst of the war between cartels of drug trafficking during the administration of Felipe Calderón, exactly on the 29th of October 2010.
Worth 240 thousand euros the Cisen –under the past leadership of Guillermo Valdés Castellanos- purchased “a software for the analysis of the traffic network”.
A year after now with Alejandro Poiré in charge of the entity, it paid 415 thousand euros more for the “strengthening of the software”; and in 2012 in the middle of the electoral fever and now under Jaime Domingo López Buitrón as the director, it disbursed another 315 thousand euros more “to update” the program.
The relation with the PAN-Affiliated administration was close and was renewed with the return of the PRI to the executive branch. Now under Peña Nieto in the political power and precisely to celebrate the New Year’s Eve, on the 31st of December 2013, David Vincenzetti, President of the Administrative Body of Hacking Team, a new contract worth 205 thousand euros was signed. Hence the invasive technology of this transnational assured its services in the current administration.
On the Saturday 20th of June 2015 a few weeks after the leaking of information, the Cisen disbursed 205 thousand euros more for another update.
According to the Secretariat of the Interior during the current government “only the maintenance costs have been paid”. The latter was ascertained in written form by the Secretary while rejecting the interview requests presented by this weekly magazine.
“Currently we have four computers enlisted, all of them for DAGS, which continually produced information; the deliveries were made on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays”, added the director of Social Communication Roberto Femat, and ascertained that due to the hack “the Enrollment Platform of HT finds itself disabled”.
Invasive technology, out of control
Every time there are more requests of communication interventions, every time there are more approvals on behalf of the Judicial Power, states in an interview Luis Fernando García, executive director of Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales (R3D).
The attorney specialized in right of information warns about the sophistication of the intervention technologies purchased to Hacking Team, for which “the Cisen is granted a power difficult to control even by the own judges”.
As these programs are designed to attack and take control of the personal devices, its use should be the last resource among the options to forestall the risks for the State, which is the argument, used by the intelligence body to obtain the permits.
“Given that it is a computer attack, within the questions that have to do with the judges is the proportionality: it has to do with the options that are on the table to go against threats. In the existence of other tools, I find it hard to believe that there were over 2 thousand cases in which there were no other options than this technology. This is worrying.”
Given the fact that we are dealing with a “malicious software it requires a careful scrutiny; “nor should the requests [of intervention] be accepted other than in cases of clear threats”, highlights García. “It must be something exceptional we fight so that they are not used in an arbitrary and authoritarian way”.
Luis Fernando García explains that in countries like the United Kingdom, the United States or Canada there are external control mechanisms to the security agencies.
“Furthermore to the judicial control, the necessity of an independent body with the possibility to access the files in an aleatory way must be considered, that could analyze and issue reports”, states the director of R3D.
Instead and to warranty the closure, the Cisen argues that all related information with espionage has to be “invariably of confidential nature”.
(Translated by: Axel Plasa)
Contralínea 478 / del 07 al 12 de Marzo, 2016