Press freedom groups said Tuesday that the Mexican government apparently continued to use the Pegasus spyware to infect the telephones of human rights activists until the end of 2022, while President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called for a halt to such spying. Had promised.
The activist targeted by the spyware works for the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center. The center has been spied on in the past, and has worked to expose abuses by the government, including the Mexican military.
The group said Tuesday that the Pegasus infection was confirmed through a forensic investigation by the University of Toronto group Citizen Lab.
“So far under the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, at least three human rights activists and two journalists have been illegally spied on with Pegasus, possibly by the military, which, according to press information, is the only (government) agency which is currently Pegasus,” according to a report by press freedom group Article 19, the Network for the Defense of Digital Rights, and Mexican media organizations.
The New York Times first reported the new hack.
Mexican president accused of wiretapping activists, violating pledge
The Israeli-made spyware Pegasus spyware is only available to the countries’ government agencies; It infiltrates phones or other devices to silently collect data and potentially spy on their owners.
The revelation comes a day after Mexico’s Supreme Court struck down a 2016 rule that allowed the military to wiretap civilians’ phones without a court order.
López Obrador pledged in December 2018 to end government spying. The President said that as Leader of the Opposition, he himself had been a victim of government surveillance for decades.
Asked about the alleged hack at his daily press briefing on Tuesday, the president did not respond directly, but reiterated the distinction that what his government does is intelligence gathering, not spying.
López Obrador said, “We have a clear conscience to say that human rights are not going to be violated, nobody is going to be spied on.” “We haven’t done this to anyone.”
The director of the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center, Santiago Aguirre, and the center’s director of international affairs were targeted in the most recent hack.
Their phones were infected between June and September of 2022, the report said, while the two activists were involved in investigations and protests regarding past military abuses, including the 2014 abduction and disappearance of 43 students from a rural teachers’ college .
Other previous victims included journalist and author Ricardo Rafael in 2019 and 2020, and an unnamed reporter for the online media outlet Animal Politico.
In October, the same groups released a report saying the Mexican military continued to use spyware against targets including rights activist Raymundo Ramos. The government apparently leaked a recording of a phone call in which Ramos’ voice is heard. The government says it tapped an alleged drug trafficker’s phone, and that Ramos either called or was called on the number.
Ramos has worked for years documenting military and police abuses, including multiple murders, in the drug cartel-dominated border town of Nuevo Laredo. Ramos’ cellphone was apparently infected with the Pegasus spyware in 2020.
Search continues for missing Americans off Mexico coast
Leaked documents reveal that the Mexican military has reportedly requested price quotes for surveillance programs from companies involved in the delivery of the Pegasus. The report states that hacker group Guacamaya found Army documents listing price quotes from 2020, 2021 and 2022.
Victims of the spyware attacks said that because of the nature of their work and the timing of the spying, they believed the military was responsible.
Mexico’s Defense Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the allegations.
López Obrador’s top security official has said that the last two administrations spent $61 million to buy the Pegasus spyware.
Click here to get the Fox News app
López Obrador has relied more heavily on the military than his predecessors and given it more responsibilities – from building infrastructure projects to overseeing ports and airports.
This has raised concerns that the Mexican military – which has traditionally stayed out of politics – could turn itself into a force with little oversight or transparency.
We have detected that you are using extensions to block ads. Please support us by disabling these ads blocker.