The Mexican Supreme Court has ordered President Enrique Peña Nieto to release details about the number of people and devices it spied on in 2014 after his government rejected a petition from the National Institute for Transparency, Access to Information and Personal Data (INAI), on the basis that publishing the details of its telephone wiretaps would harm national security.
The court ruled 10-1 in favor of the INAI, saying statistical data would not reveal the methods the Center for Investigation and National Security (CISEN) uses or bring to light sensitive information such as the names of people whose devices the organization has intercepted.
The case began when the Defense of Digital Rights Network (R3D) filed a petition through the INAI asking the government to release espionage data. Humberto Castillejos, the president’s legal counsel, brought the request before the Supreme Court in August. The decision marks a new precedent in Mexico and will provide greater transparency on issues related to surveillance. R3D argues that all statistical data, regardless of content, is public information. Luis María Aguilar, the president of the Mexican Supreme Court, challenged this line of reasoning, saying some statistical information is in fact too sensitive to release and that cases should be judged individually.
CISEN has increased its espionage operations since embattled Enrique Peña Nieto took office in 2012. The administration of former president Felipe Calderón intercepted 340 telephone lines during its six years at the reins. In contrast, this government filed for warrants to intercept 747 private conversations for up to 360 days in each case in 2014 alone.
The Supreme Court has now ruled that the executive must reveal how many people and devices it spied on throughout that year.
CISEN is less accountable than other government security agencies in Mexico. R3D says 99% of its requests to telecommunications companies for wiretaps were not backed by a warrant. “Today’s decision is a very important step for transparency and the right to privacy in Mexico,” R3D said in a statement.
English version by Dyane Jean-François.