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Writing about bugs in this previous post made me think about another kind of Tijuana bug: The kind that has no wings and many ears.
When I started working in Tijuana, a security firm hired by The San Diego Union-Tribune to assess our office there apparently found a “bug-like device.” They couldn’t determine if it was a viable bug, but they marked it up in their report along with some security suggestions that were promptly complied with.
But it wasn’t just our phone lines that faced potential infestation. The majority of my interviews were done in person because people I met were worried about their own phone lines. Some of these concerned people were government officials. The widespread belief here was that people involved in sensitive matters were being bugged by either the government or criminal groups.
A close family member of a Tijuana journalist killed by drug cartel members once told me they suspected their phones had been bugged. Surrounded by all that paranoia, what was I supposed to think when one day I picked up the phone at work and heard two men talking in Spanish. “No te preocupes,” – don’t worry – one was saying when I injected myself into the conversation to ask who was on my line. No one answered back. There may have been a logical explanation to this, but from then on I made a point of alternating between different phone lines to make my calls.
Here’s an interesting story by The Los Angeles Times from last year about how the U.S. government is providing financial assistance so that Mexican authorities can expand phone and email taps, presumably to target drug trafficking groups.