Mexican SIGINT

Mexico has been having a lot of success capturing the leaders of drug cartels.

U.S. agents cannot operate in Mexico. Nevertheless, many successful captures of important cartel figures are often backed by gringo assistance,  according a secret State Department cable released by Wikileaks,

What sort of assistance? This interesting study “Sever: SIGINT and Criminal Netwar Networks”  (.pdf) details the critical but unheralded role played by signals intelligence (SIGINT), commonly known as wiretapping and eavesdropping, in targeting Mexico’s drug cartels.

Buried  the $1.4 billion Merida anti-drug initiative is a little-known,  $3-million SIGINT system that is paid for by the U.S. taxpayer.

The Communications Intercept System in Mexico’s Federal government was installed by Verint Systems Inc., a politically well-connected firm based in Melville, N.Y. and paid for by the U.S. State Department. 

The system “can monitor almost any form of electronic communication in Mexico.”

The Communications Intercept System’s central monitoring station has real time and off- line playback, fax and packet data decoding, stores all calls for at least 25,000 hours, and has cellular location and tracking. The database in the monitoring station can accommodate 8,000,000 sessions, and monitor and record 60 calls simultaneously. Four facsimiles can also be decoded simultaneously. The monitoring station is a joint Mexico-U.S. network.

Specific tools of analysis are also included in the system. Voice data banks are used for analysis, comparison, recognition and identification. The system has the ability to analyze calls and automatically generate links between them. Additionally, the system has the tools necessary to track cellular targets on a map.

Surveillance by the Drug Enforcement Administration led to the capture in 2010 of Teodoro “El Teo” Garcia Simental, a lieutenant in the Tijuana cartel, in La Paz. El Teo was responsible for hundreds of killings and kidnappings over a two year reign of terror.

Before his death in 2009, cartel leader Arturo Beltran Leyva was overheard talking to  prostitutes on his cell phone before a raid. The capture of members of his network had also created the paranoia which led to his split from the Sinaloa Cartel, and its boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera.

Another sign that SIGINT has been effective was found in a raid last year of a compound used by the Zetas, one of the better organized drug operations, where officials found encryption equipment and mobile radio transmitters the cartel was using to communicate and coordinate its operations.

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