Congressman Lowenthal, Colleagues Call on Mexican Govt to Verify Status of Spyware Investigation

March 27, 2018
Press Release

Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) today joined with 10 of his House colleagues to call on the Ambassador of Mexico to the United States to verify that the Mexican government is moving forward in an investigation regarding the use of spyware technology against human rights defenders, journalists, and anti-corruption activists in Mexico.
In a letter sent today to Ambassador Geronimo Gutierrez, the Congress Members wrote, "We believe that it is imperative that the Government of Mexico carry out a serious, transparent, thorough, and impartial investigation into the illegal use of spyware, and bring to justice any public official or government agency involved in the matter.

In June, the New York Times broke a story about the use of sophisticated spyware technology targeting human rights defenders, journalists, and anti-corruption activists in Mexico. This spyware, known as Pegasus, was developed by the Israeli cyber warfare company NSO Group, which claims that the software is sold exclusively to government entities under the explicit condition that it only be used against suspected terrorists and criminal organizations.

However, an investigative journalism report by digital security research group The Citizen Lab found that this technology was used against, among others: human rights attorneys at Centro Prodh, who represent the families of the missing 43 students from Ayotzinapa, women of Atenco who were arrested and brutally sexually assaulted by police, as well as many other human rights cases; anti-corruption journalist Carmen Aristegui and her teenage son; and an independent panel of experts appointed by an international commission to investigate the Ayotzinapa missing student case.

According to three investigative reports in 2017, the Government of Mexico spent more than $80 million to acquire the Pegasus technology. The Mexican government has never denied purchasing and owning the spyware, and earlier this year committed to launching an investigation into the misuse of this spyware. However, in the five months since the investigation began, the Mexican government has yet to provide any additional information regarding progress or results of its inquiry.

There are several concerning and potential unlawful elements of the case, including: spying on a US citizen and human rights attorney in Mexico; spying on a foreign citizen while they were residing in the US; spying on foreign investigators granted diplomatic immunity; as well as the impersonation of a United States Embassy by a foreign entity.

The letter concludes, "We respectfully request that you provide us with information regarding the Government of Mexico's plans to address the concerns of the spyware victims, guarantee that all lines of investigation outlined in this letter are exhausted, and ensure that victims and their lawyers are kept informed of the progress in the case. As an important neighbor and ally, we thank you for your ongoing efforts to make human rights and the freedom of expression top priorities and we look forward to working with you to continue to strengthen the U.S.-Mexico relationship."

In addition to Rep. Alan Lowenthal the letter to Ambassador Gutierrez was signed by Reps. Don Beyer (D-VA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Michael E. Capuano (D-MA), Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), James P. McGovern (D-MA), Mark Pocan  (D-WI), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and José E. Serrano (D-NY).

To read the full letter, click here.