Thursday, December 29, 2011

Radio Free Mexico

A reader pointed me to this article concerning the sophisticated radio communication systems used by the Mexican drug cartels. From the article:

Starting with high-end handheld radios in the hands of lookouts, relayed by concealed radio towers powered by solar panels, boosted by repeater relays and a network of powerful antennas across Mexico, this shadow communications system allows the cartel to coordinate drug deliveries, kidnappings, extortion and other crimes with the immediacy and precision of a modern military or law-enforcement agency.

The Mexican army and marines have begun attacking the system, seizing hundreds of pieces of communications equipment in at least three operations since September that offer a firsthand look at a surprisingly far-ranging and sophisticated infrastructure.

Current and former U.S. law-enforcement officials say the equipment was part of a single network that until recently extended from the U.S. border down eastern Mexico's Gulf coast and into Guatemala.

The network allowed Zetas operatives to conduct encrypted conversations without depending on the official cell phone network, which is relatively easy for authorities to tap into, and in many cases does not reach deep into the Mexican countryside.

"They're doing what any sensible military unit would do," said Robert Killebrew, a retired U.S. Army colonel who has studied the Mexican drug cartels for the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think tank. "They're branching out into as many forms of communications as possible."
The article mentions that the Mexican government disagrees that the network was a single network, but was actually a series of localized networks. This would suggest that the network was not as sophisticated as the U.S. authorities maintain. The only reason this may be relevant is that the article makes a point that the communications equipment used by the cartels were all legally obtained. Because of Gunwalker, I wonder if the Administration will use the existence of the Mexican network to justify restrictions on communication equipment in the United States.

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