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Tech by VICE

Is Mexico's Hidden Spy Center A Complete Bust?

Nobody has the slightest idea who (what?) has been busy "funneling $350 million worth of whiz-bang drug-bust border spy tech":http://motherboard.vice.com/2012/8/7/nobody-s-sure-who-s-supplying-mexico-with-350-million-worth-of-border-spy-tech to the...

by Brian Anderson
Aug 27 2012, 4:50pm

Nobody has the slightest idea who (what?) has been busy funneling $350 million worth of whiz-bang drug-bust border spy tech to the Mexican Army and Department of Defense. But if one thing is for certain it’s that all that fancy gear – which includes lots and lots of joint US-Mexico spy stations, but also a sizable, newly revealed Mexican Intelligence Center hidden under Mexico City – maybe isn’t worth shit against the relentless crush of increasingly brazen cartels.

The Center is the endpoint for thousands of live feeds from around the country, and as far as anyone can tell is the first of its kind in Latin America. It’s a round bunker lined with computer monitors and “giant screens,” and spans three floors deep beneath the manicured lawn of a federal police station in the capital, as the AFP reports. Street cameras snooping lowly mules, radars sniffing out coke ships and aircraft pulling in and out of Mexico, Global Hawk drones gazing indefatigably over the borderlands – all these realtime data are piped here. On the base floor alone, some 500 million files – “police reports, rap sheets and vehicle registrations,” and on and on – are housed in racks upon racks of servers.

“There is no other data fusion center like this in Latin America,” Francisco Niembro Gonzalez, under secretary for information technology at Mexico’s public security ministry, told reporters in a rare tour of the bunker, which went live three years ago under the crime-fighting program of outgoing President Felipe Calderon.

Narco war deaths (via National Post)

Gonzalez added that all the intel bundled at the Center has aided authorities in nabbing over 113,000 suspects to date, and that “22 of the 37 most wanted druglords” have been rounded up. Not bad, all things considered. Hats reluctantly tipped to the spies and their bunker?

Then again, it all depends on what numbers are being parsed. Narco violence has been in a tailspin since 2006, when Calderon first set targets on the traffickers. With a death toll exceeding 50,000, and a homicide rate up for the fourth straight year, from nine to 24 slayings per 100,000 inhabitants in 2005 and 2011, respectively, it’s small wonder many folks outside the Mexican government are deeply critical of the shiny spyware.

“[The bunker] has been a huge investment,” Samuel Gonzalez, a private security consultant and one-time drug prosecutor, told the AFP. “Never has so much money been spent on public security with such terrible results.”

“It’s a question of time,” Gonzalez, the under secretary, added. “As we continue with this intelligence work, they will all fall in the end.”

Meanwhile, over the weekend cartel goons in Guadalajara torched dozens of vehicles in roadblock retaliation to six of their members being gunned down by federal police. The live feeds of the flames? Probably stunning.

Top: Sprayed-out police station in northern Mexico (via)

Reach this writer at brian@motherboard.tv. @thebanderson

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