Behind an exaggeration there is usually a big lie. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador declared this week that his government does not spy on anyone; He also affirmed that there are no instances such as the Center for Investigation and National Security (Cisen) or “the secret police.”
Both claims are false: the government of the Republic spies and has at least seven agencies whose work requires information obtained without the consent of the people observed through sophisticated methods of penetration or discreet infiltration.
It is true, as the President affirms, that the Cisen does not exist with that name, but it is a lie that it has disappeared. The objectives, the facilities, the personnel, the equipment and the entire set of assets that previously belonged to that agency, with the current administration passed into the hands of the National Intelligence Center (CNI), attached to the Ministry of Public Security and Citizen Protection .
This instance is currently headed by retired Major General Audomaro Martínez Zapata.
The CNI’s mission is to propose to the federal government measures to prevent, deter, contain and deactivate risks and threats to security. It is childish to suppose that this mission can be accomplished without having secret data obtained through various practices related to espionage.
Intelligence depends on certain information and it does not grow on apple or fig trees.
The Mexican Armed Forces also have at least three offices dedicated to producing intelligence and therefore use espionage as an input. The Secretariat of National Defense (Sedena) has the Second Intelligence Section and the Seventh Section for operations against drug trafficking. Both units are coordinated by what is known as the Military Intelligence System (SIM) whose central task is to combat criminal organizations dedicated to the production and transfer of drugs.
A main instruction for the SIM is “to penetrate time and space to affect the balance point of the criminal organization or group.”
These somewhat bizarre terms are used in military jargon to refer precisely to espionage.
In addition to these two instances attached to the Sedena, there is the Naval Intelligence Unit (UIN) that depends on the Secretariat of the Navy. She provides information for the tasks performed by the Mexican Navy.
The UIN has a recognized group of spies dedicated to counter-intelligence, that is, they are agents who spy on agents.
The reputation of this unit abroad is so high that the trust that exists between US agencies, in particular the CIA and DEA, and the UIN of the Mexican Navy, is often highlighted.
During the administration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the Intelligence Directorate of the National Guard was also created. From this instance, discreet strategies are held to obtain information related to criminal networks that operate throughout the national territory and commit crimes provided for by the Federal Criminal Code.
Another agency that also performs tasks comparable to espionage is the Criminal Investigation Agency (AIC) attached to the Attorney General’s Office. This agency, together with Cisen and Sedena, acquired the famous Pegasus software in previous administrations.
Finally, the Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF), dependent on the Ministry of Finance and Public Credit, also carries out actions classified as espionage. Based on information provided by counterpart entities abroad and also thanks to the monitoring of millions of financial operations that occur within the national territory, the FIU spies with the explicit purpose of combating money laundering and also the commission of acts of corruption by part of public officials.
In summary, there are at least seven agencies of the federal government that practice espionage to produce intelligence aimed at preventing risks and threats to national security.
In this, Mexico is not distinguished from the rest of the modern nations that experience very complex and increasingly sophisticated challenges from the enemies of democracy and freedom.
However, unlike other countries, Mexico does not have rigorous legislation, nor action protocols, much less control systems that ensure, on the one hand, an incontrovertible justification on the reasons why it is decided to spy on a person and, on the other, that they verify the legality of the actions of the agencies dedicated to espionage.
These are the two reasons why government espionage has no limits in our country. The Pegasus affair shows that, instead of persecuting terrorists, pedophiles or kidnappers, agencies dedicated to espionage can penetrate the privacy of journalists, human rights defenders, politicians and, equally or more seriously, of relatives of these same people.
The arbitrariness with which the objectives are decided by the spy agencies is a problem of the previous governments and if it is not defined with legal precision, it will continue to be so for this administration and those that will come after it.
It is also serious that spy agencies are not accountable to any elected authority. In most democratic nations there is a commission of legislators that is the last resort when it comes to verifying the legality of the tasks and responsibilities of the agencies dedicated to producing intelligence for the State.
This is the most worrying issue regarding espionage by the Mexican government. Its operators have acted with total impunity because they have never paid costs for their illegal actions.
You cannot combat illegal espionage by denying that there is government intelligence, nor by lying that the bodies dedicated to this activity have disappeared. What is required are strict and credible control and verification mechanisms on this controversial and necessary activity.