NSA and CIA Hacked Enrique Peña Nieto before the 2012 Election

Part of the frenzied discussion about the possibility that Russia hacked the DNC includes claims that the US would never do something so dastardly.

Except that the Foreign Government Section 702 Certificate makes it clear the NSA is authorized to spy on foreign based political organizations even within the US (and would have far more liberty under EO 12333). Among the parties specifically authorized for targeting in 2010 was Pakistan’s People Party, the incumbent party in a nominal ally.

Indeed, the Snowden documents have an even better example of the US spying in advance of an election — when, in June 2012, NSA targeted the texts between Enrique Peña Nieto and nine of his closest associates.

The NSA’s intelligence agents in Texas must have been asking themselves such questions when they authorized an unusual type of operation known as structural surveillance. For two weeks in the early summer of 2012, the NSA unit responsible for monitoring the Mexican government analyzed data that included the cell phone communications of Peña Nieto and “nine of his close associates,” as an internal presentation from June 2012 shows. Analysts used software to connect this data into a network, shown in a graphic that resembles a swarm of bees. The software then filtered out Peña Nieto’s most relevant contacts and entered them into a databank called “DishFire.” From then on, these individuals’ cell phones were singled out for surveillance.

According to the internal documents, this led to the agency intercepting 85,489 text messages, some sent by Peña Nieto himself and some by his associates. This technology “might find a needle in a haystack,” the analysts noted, adding that it could do so “in a repeatable and efficient way.”

This would have been in the weeks leading up to the election on July 1.

There is one difference: We don’t know what our spooks did with the information gleaned from the 85,489 texts kept from candidate EPN (it was a close election, and I presume we preferred EPN to Andrés Manuel López Obrador). NSA and CIA (with which NSA partnered on this hack) certainly did not release any information we know of from those texts. A more interesting question, in this case, is whether the US used anything from those texts to reassure ourselves — or ensure — that EPN’s campaign promises to change Mexico’s level of cooperation in the war on drugs (which of course also means spying) would change once he won the election, as they did.

None of this excuses Russia if it hacked the DNC. But it does provide a very concrete example where the US hacked the most intimate network of a person running for office — and of an ally, no less.

Spies steal information, even from political candidates. Including American spies.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

12 replies
    • P J Evans says:

      Trump is very favorably disposed toward Putin, so I can see them doing something like that, in order to influence the election.
      It doesn’t help that Wikileaks said they intentionally left the identifying information in their dump. That should put them on the wrong side of a lot of privacy laws.

    • John Casper says:

      3. Has any reliable source ruled the Russians out?
      .
      You wrote, “And then, almost more incredible, handed them over to wikileaks?”
      .
      4. If the Russians did the hack, why is it, “incredible,” that they, “handed them over to wikileaks?”

  1. Rayne says:

    Spies steal information.

    Like from heads of state.

    Like from corporations tightly entwined with states.

    And sometimes they just agree to share information, spy to spy.

    Rather surprising it dawns on so few people there could be more than one interested group of spies involved in theft of DNC’s emails.

    Or that we’re not up to our eyeballs in it everywhere. Maybe even here.

    Also surprised that Rumsfeld’s one-time Office of Strategic Influence has been forgotten — shut down, but its functions absorbed into DOD’s bowels. Out of sight, we can’t know what this function has done/is doing, or to whom and where it continues to act.

    /choir-preaching

    • martin says:

      “Or that we’re not up to our eyeballs in it everywhere. Maybe even here.”

      Maybe here? Hahahaha. Rayne.. get a grip. emptywheel. Comprende? And you are a contributor. Thank god. And thank you. And fuck them. Them..meaning every scum sucking tyrant wannabe helper on the planet. Meanwhile YOUR daily observations are my daily bread. Thank you. Keep it up lady.

  2. martin says:

    btw Rayne.. just to give you another sphere of influence.. check out Peter Van Buren’s site once in a while. His insight is a parallel stream of our daily absorption of what is happening before our very eyes.

    http://wemeantwell.com/blog/

  3. Rayne says:

    martin (8:03) — Dude. I forgot to put the GAWDDAMNED SNARK TAG IN BOLDFACE ALL CAPS FONT for you, especially just before the reference to Rummy’s half-aborted attempt at propaganda inside the U.S.

  4. Evangelista says:

    Doing a quick-n-dirty check for facts re: the Rushin’ to judgment re: the alleged ‘hack’ allegedly behind the Wikkileak spill of emails evidencing supposed-to-be-secret scumball behavior by high level personnel of the DNC master-class (and elections-manipulating friends), by grubbing a bit with Google, I found no needles in haystacks, nor any haystacks. I did, however, find a gargantuan glut of gaseous garbage.

    I could say “Digging in the heap I found…”, but I did not dig, so saying that would make add me to the heap of hacks who, contributing each one his and her own volumes of garbagean gas, have howled the heap to its Hymalayan heighth. Instead, I will admit to having only poked a bit with a bit of a stick around the edges.

    What I found was a fatwa-class foundation of fatuous bullshit.

    I found, however, no sign whatsoever of bearshit.

    From this my top-o-the-internet calibre of research I am able to discern (a top-o-the-internet calibre discernment) that there is a Hymalayan mountain of evidence for Wall Street rhetoric (gurgitated through Mad Ave and regurgitated in Media Circus (where if you want to pick-a-dilly, this ‘Look-over-there!-it’s Rusians!!’ blow of smoke, with fire and sparks could be your choice), but no evidence for Russian rhetoric.
    .
    This, my observation from poking a bit in the evidences, is all I am going to offer. I am offering no conclusions. It is my belief that by stopping short here I shall be able to avoid being bombarded with lists of inane questions composed by idiots whose abilities to Google reached zenith with becoming able to type “google” in Google’s search-box.

        • John Casper says:

          You wrote, “Doing a quick-n-dirty check for facts re: the Rushin’ to judgment re: the alleged ‘hack’…”

          So you don’t think someone hacked the DNC?

          Thanks for your, brevity, clarity, spelling, and punctuation at 7:26. It confirms the absence of those in the rest of your gibberish is orchestrated.

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