US suspicious of Mexico’s request for help in spyware investigation: report

US suspicious of Mexico’s request for help in spyware investigation: report
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U.S. officials are steering clear of Mexico's requests to help investigate improper surveillance on its civilians, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto ordered a federal investigation into the matter after the Times published a bombshell report in June detailing an extensive spy campaign against distinguished human rights lawyers, journalists and academics in Mexico. The surveillance was conducted with government-acquired spying technology.

Nieto appealed to the FBI to assist with the probe after acknowledging that the government had purchased such technology.

But American officials rebuffed the requests over suspicions that the Mexican government wanted to publicly tout U.S. involvement to make the government probe seem credible.

U.S. officials were skeptical the Mexican government was serious about investigating the case because it might ultimately implicate key figures, senior American officials told the Times. 

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The advanced surveillance technology used in the spying is sold exclusively to governments by an Israeli cyber-arms manufacturer, according to the report. The developer sells such products on the strict condition that the technology is used solely to keep tabs on criminals and terrorists. 

Once the report revealed that the technology had been used on innocent civilians, the Mexican government sent a list of questions to American law enforcement officials to help on the case. But one official suggested that the list aimed to give the appearance of a serious investigation when anyone with a computer science degree could've easily answered the questions. 

The official told The Times that Mexico could solve the matter without U.S. assistance since its government operated the spying technology.

The FBI declined the newspaper's request for comment.

The Mexican government declined to offer specific details about the state of its investigation, stating that it is still “in the phase of exhausting different lines of investigation.” 

Victims of the spy campaign and their lawyers, who have access to the case files, argue that basic steps have not yet been filled in an investigation that began six months ago.