This doesn’t look good for you, Mexico. This doesn’t look good at all.
You’ve just been accused of infecting the cellphones of 88 journalists, human rights activists, and lawyers with a particularly malicious form of spyware called Pegasus. Even worse, everyone you hacked was involved in investigating corruption or the collusion of officials with organized crime. Even our own Señor Trump only fired FBI director James Comey for applying the heat. He didn’t try to jack his phone (at least that we know of so far).
For shame, Mexico! ¡Qué vergüenza!
The big question now is just how the U.S. will respond to this latest scandal, and whether or not we’ll continue to be complicit in Mexico’s ongoing human rights crisis.
Named after the winged horse of Greek mythology—and designed by a cyperweapons company that employed disgraced Donald Trump adviser Michael Flynn—the Pegasus malware swooped into the devices of unsuspecting targets via alarming or even threatening text messages. Once the victims clicked on a link, all the data in their phones could be accessed remotely by Pegasus software. Cameras and microphones could also be activated to snoop on the phone’s owner.
In order to induce the fateful click, the texts included ploys like notices of fraudulent credit card transactions, or even intimations of marital infidelity.
“You don’t have the balls to watch how I make out with your partner,” read one such message. In another case, when famed Mexican reporter Carmen Aristegui refused to take the bait, her U.S.-based son was sent bogus reports about his visa. Other tactics included using phony headlines alleging graft to lure unsuspecting, anti-corruption investigators.
Invoking the size of one’s cojones in order to implant spyware is literally hitting below the belt, Mexico. You’ve managed to take noticias falsas (fake news) to a whole new low.
Yes, we’ve all heard your denials. Your promises (again and again) to ensure safety for the press and guarantee human rights. But here’s the thing: The Israeli security firm called NSO—that makes the Pegasus software you got caught with—only sells to government agencies. And Citizen Lab, the Toronto research center that traced the links back to NSO even accused you of “government espionage.” Besides, let’s be honest, your track record on this kind of thing isn’t so hot.
It’s bad enough that police and maybe even military units were in cahoots with the cartels that caused the disappearance of 43 student teachers in Iguala, back in September of 2014.
But now you’re hacking the lawyers tasked with defending the families of those missing students.
To which we say again, ¡Qué vergüenza! What a disgrace!
We were mortified when news came out last week that some of your law enforcement officers had leaked DEA information to the Zetas cartel, thus causing a bloodbath that claimed dozens, maybe hundreds, of lives.
And we’re all appalled by the seven journalists killed this year on your watch, especially since there hasn’t been an arrest made so far in any of those cases.
Yet all that pales in comparison to deliberate, administrative spying on reporters and legal activists.
Come on, Mexico... Who do you think you are—the NSA?
Yes, Uncle Sam’s hands also bear the government surveillance stain, so we know how hard it is to wash that damned spot out. As fiendish and paranoid as this makes you appear in the eyes of the world, we need to own up to our own part in this, too.
And it goes deeper than the fact the retired general and international coup fomenter Michael Flynn received tens of thousands of dollars for working as a consultant to the company that designed Pegasus for you.
Washington is the great enabler in all of this. And that needs to stop. Since 2008 we’ve sent down a whopping $2.6 billion in security aid, allegedly to fight the “Drug War.” Only now it’s becoming clear that the regime of embattled Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto—like that of President Felipe Calderón before him—might be using those funds to suppress critics and dissidents, while letting the “bad hombres” of the cartels get off easy.
The Trump administration needs to learn from these mistakes. The Mexican government is a serial human rights abuser, and allegations of collusion with “El Narco” abound at both the state and federal level.
Security assistance to Mexico ought to be curtailed or at least suspended until the Nieto administration gets its act together on essential civil and human rights.
Any other course of action will only result in vergüenza mas grande.