Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Up in the Sky

American drones are flying in Mexico, searching for info on organized crime. I second Boz's comment on the matter:
The Pentagon began flying high-altitude, unarmed drones over Mexican skies last month, American military officials said, in hopes of collecting information to turn over to Mexican law enforcement agencies. Other administration officials said a Homeland Security drone helped Mexican authorities find several suspects linked to the Feb. 15 killing of Jaime Zapata, a United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent.

President Obama and his Mexican counterpart, Felipe Calderón, formally agreed to continue the surveillance flights during a White House meeting on March 3. The American assistance has been kept secret because of legal restrictions in Mexico and the heated political sensitivities there about sovereignty, the officials said.
The US insists that everything done with the drones is under the request and direction of the Mexican government. That might (maybe) make it constitutional. However, that's not going to stop certain sectors within Mexican politics from being very angry about this issue.

Though it appears easier at first, keeping operations like this quiet due to political sensitivities is the wrong attitude to have. If we regard Mexico as an equal partner and a democracy, then they should be having this debate about US military assistance openly and transparently. I realize it's not going to be a fun debate to have in the Mexican Congress and media and that it could lead to the end of these sorts of operations, but Calderon's political comfort is not an operational security requirement.
I would also add that, while the political fight would probably be unseemly and maybe unsuccessful, I think American officials often overstate the degree to which stuff like this would spark popular outrage, rather than preening anger from hay-making politicians.

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