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Narco Surveillance Is Predictably Shady

No one really knows who's hooking up Mexico with $350 million in border-spying gear.
Brian Anderson
Κείμενο Brian Anderson
8.8.12

Nobody outside the Mexican Army and Department of Defense has little idea just who’s behind the surveillance gear contracts. The DoD did recently confirm that the contracts are indeed authentic. One problem, though: Something’s up with Security Tracking Solutions, the predictably shady company stated in the contracts as providing all the gear.

The company doesn’t appear to have any online presence, though is listed as operating out of Jalisco state, near Guadalajara. But go and check out where STS says it is and you’ll find nothing but run-down residential sprawl, apparently, with no signs of any narco-sniffing tech firm in sight. That’s according to some ace sleuthing by El Universal, the Mexican daily that not only rolled out empty-handed from STS’ claimed address, but that leaked a stash of secret documents last month purportedly “showing deals made between 2011-12 by a top army general” and STS, as Slate reports.

All this, presumably, to sniff out drugs, drug mules, and drug lords moving all over the borderlands. And yet El Universal has quoted Mexican military sources who say the shiny new toys are being used by an intelligence squad’s top brass for “various tasks, including political espionage." For its part, the DoD rebuffed the accusations, saying the tools are for legit (see: legal) crime-fighting schemes, which positions Mexico “at the forefront of technological advances.”

But even while its unclear whether this influx will be used solely to beat back the narcos, or if (and how) it’ll be leveraged for shady political eavesdropping, we at least know some of what’s being rolled out. And taken within the drug-bust mileau, at least, we can be fairly sure for what purposes the stuff serve, too.

Read the rest over at Motherboard.