Mexico: US spied on former president Calder贸n

The US National Security Agency (NSA) hacked into the public email accounts of former Mexican president Felipe Calder贸n Hinojosa (2006-2012) and members of his cabinet, according to an Oct. 20 report in the German newsweekly Der Spiegel; the report was based on a secret NSA document leaked by former US intelligence technician Edward Snowden. This is the second revelation in less than two months about US spying on a Mexican president. On Sept. 1 Brazil’s Globo television network presented other documents leaked by Snowden showing that the NSA intercepted text messages from current Mexican president Enrique Pe帽a Nieto in June 2012, while he was still running for the presidency. Former president Calder贸n, a leader in the center-right National Action Party (PAN), was an exceptionally close ally of the US government.

The US accessed Calder贸n’s email in an operation codenamed “Flatliquid” and run by the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) department. “TAO successfully exploited a key mail server in the Mexican Presidencia domain within the Mexican presidential network to gain first-ever access to President Felipe Calder贸n’s public email account,” an NSA document reported in May 2010. Since cabinet ministers also used the Presidencia email domain, the NSA now had access to “diplomatic, economic and leadership communications which continue to provide insight into Mexico’s political system and internal stability,” the agency reported. It described the president’s office as “a lucrative source.”

Other NSA documents show intensive US spying on the Mexican government. In August 2009, the agency gained access to the emails of officials in the Public Security Secretariat (SSP), a federal ministry which was replaced early this year by the National Security Commission (CNS). An NSA document from 2009 highlights the agency’s “tremendous success” in spying on Mexico and looks forward to “future successes”: “These TAO accesses into several Mexican government agencies are just the beginning–we intend to go much further against this important target.” 

Asked by Der Spiegel to comment, the NSA responded: “We are not going to comment publicly on every specific alleged intelligence activity, and as a matter of policy we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations.” (Der Spiegel, Oct. 20, English language edition))

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, October 20.