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NSA hacked Mexican president's email, according to latest leaks

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Obama mexico spying FLICKR Peña Nieto
Obama mexico spying FLICKR Peña Nieto

The United States has for years carried out extensive surveillance and eavesdropping operations targeting Mexico's government, according to new evidence obtained by Spiegel Online. The German publication says its information comes directly from classified intelligence leaked by Edward Snowden. Chief among the allegations is that the NSA successfully infiltrated the public email account of Mexico's former president, Felipe Calderon.

Once the agency gained access, according to Spiegel, a top secret May 2010 report reveals that it monitored "diplomatic, economic and leadership communications which continue to provide insight into Mexico's political system and internal stability." The NSA's operatives accomplished this by exploiting "a key mail server in the Mexican Presidencia domain within the Mexican Presidential network," and additional documents suggest the US has continued to take advantage of this security hole — it's described as a "lucrative source" of intelligence.

The NSA secretly gained access to a wealth of data on Mexico's government

In the summer of 2012, the NSA would begin monitoring the communications of then-presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto and "nine of his close associates." In all, it intercepted 85,489 text messages from the politician's inner circle; Peña Nieto is now Mexico's president. In a report detailing the spying, NSA analysts trumpeted the technology it used for the snooping, saying it "might find a needle in a haystack" and could accomplish this "in a repeatable and efficient way." The NSA's surveillance of wireless phone calls and text messages in Mexico is reportedly conducted under the internal code name "Eveningeasel."

Spiegel's report claims that both Mexico and Brazil — which has grown outraged by revelations of NSA surveillance— remain high priority subjects. The US has put the most focus on monitoring Mexico's drug trade, political leadership, economic stability, military prowess, and trade relations, among other areas of interest. Last month, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff announced plans to route internet traffic between South America and Europe, bypassing the US entirely. Officials are also being pressured to pass laws requiring American companies including Google and Microsoft to store data on Brazilian users inside the country. When contacted by Spiegel to comment on the report, the NSA provided the following statement

We are not going to comment publicly on every specific alleged intelligence activity, and as a matter of policy we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations. As the President said in his speech at the UN General Assembly, we've begun to review the way that we gather intelligence, so that we properly balance the legitimate security concerns of our citizens and allies with the privacy concerns that all people share.

President Obama in August unveiled new reforms aimed at calming unease over the government's spying both at home and abroad. But several of Obama's proposed solutions, including an NSA review panel, have been criticized for not going far enough in addressing the problem. US officials have since admitted that Snowden's leaks have damaged ties with several countries, though it remains to be seen how Mexico will react to the latest report.