Nosy Neighbors

U.S.-Mexican wiretap cooperation


Thanks to a $3 million grant from the U.S. government, Mexican officials are expanding their ability to monitor email messages and telephone calls. Among other things, the new Communications Intercept System will allow the government to keep track of cell phone users as they move around.

Mexicans also can thank the U.S. for another surveillance innovation: warrantless wiretaps. Under a proposal by Mexican President Felipe Calderón, prosecutors would be permitted to intercept the communications of suspected criminals without judicial approval. Such surveillance is supposed to be limited to urgent situations involving organized crime, but it would be up to the attorney general to make the call. The surveillance could include cross-border communications between Mexicans and American citizens or legal residents in the U.S., evidence from which would be admissible in U.S. courts.

Renato Sales, a former Mexico City prosecutor, likened Calderón's proposal to the U.S. National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance of international communications involving people on U.S. soil.

"Suddenly anyone suspected of organized crime is presumed guilty and treated as someone without any constitutional rights," Sales, a law professor at the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico, told the Los Angeles Times. "And who will determine who is an organized crime suspect? The state will."