Friday, October 25, 2013

U.S. DEA gets its wings clipped in Mexico

Guadalajara -
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has reduced the number of agents working in Mexico after officials in the government of president Enrique Peña Nieto changed the rules for intelligence sharing with their American counterparts, according to claims by several national security cabinet members of the 11 month old PRI administration.

Nor do DEA agents have the same free access to information in ongoing criminal investigations in this country which they had under the previous PAN government of former president Felipe Calderón.

The allegations were reported yesterday by La Jornada, a respected Mexican daily which did not identify its sources. The paper enjoys an excellent reputation for independence and accuracy in news content.

Soon after taking office on Dec. 1, 2012, the new administration significantly reduced the number of Mexican law enforcement agents who are authorized to share intelligence with DEA counterparts, wrote La Jornada. In Mexico's department of defense, only the secretary himself has that power. In the federal attorney general's office, Peña Nieto cabinet member Jesús Murillo Karam personally conveys intelligence information to the U.S. officials of his choice. The paper said that its government sources attributed many of the reduced information flow rules to attorney general Karam, who has cut back DEA access to Organized Crime Strike Force (SEIDO) investigations targeting Mexico's dozens of drug cartels and large criminal enterprises. La Jornada did not say whether Karam himself was one of its sources.

But DEA still maintains two offices in the heart of Mexico City, the paper noted, one of which focuses on carrying out mandates under the Mérida Initiative, a 2007 bilateral security and intelligence sharing agreement entered into by Calderón and former president George W. Bush. Funded by the Congress the following year, the initiative has provided Mexico with over a billion dollars in equipment, military hardware and security force training. The latter office, with 75 employees, is part of a huge complex at 265 Paseo de Reforma which has been called a U.S. Super Spy Center in Mexico.

Both facilities daily collect vast amounts of information and pass it to other American law enforcement agencies, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF). La Jornada said Mexico's government does not consider such DEA monitoring and reporting to constitute a prohibited intelligence operation, since the main purpose is to gather and convey readily available data about Mexican criminals who are operating within the United States, or who may have assets there which are subject to seizure under federal forfeiture statutes.

On Apr. 27 the Washington Post reported DEA "has more employees in Mexico than in any other of its 67 foreign posts." But it likewise noted that high ranking officials in the new PRI government were dismayed and distressed when they learned of the almost unlimited access American agents had to Mexican intelligence under the previous PAN government. They advised U.S. officials there would be adjustments to the rules U.S. role at a crossroads in Mexico’s intelligence war on cartels.

Apropos of last week's disclosure by The Guardian that the U.S. National Security Agency spied on both Peña Nieto and Calderón since May 2010, intercepting tens of thousands of emails and text messages (Mexico losing patience with U.S. spying), La Jornada noted this irony:

"Meanwhile, SEIDO agents are working on computers donated to the attorney general's office under the Mérida Initiative, using telephone and email interception equipment and technology supplied to Mexico (during the previous administration)." There is widespread speculation that Calderón himself authorized the electronic snooping several years ago, only to later become one of its primary targets. U.S. carried out electronic spying in Mexico with help of American contractor - and maybe of Mexico.

Oct. 21 - Sen. McCain demands answers on release of former Guadalajara Cartel boss who murdered U.S. DEA agent
Apr. 24 - On eve of Obama visit to Mexico, U.S. drug czar releases "new strategy"

© MGRR 2013. All rights reserved. This article may be cited or briefly quoted with proper attribution or a hyperlink, but not reproduced without permission.

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