- An investigation revealed that 15 000 Mexican smartphone numbers were among more than 50 000 believed to have been. elected for potential surveillance.
- They include numbers linked to journalists and President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's inner circle.
- Lopez Obrador said the intelligence must only target crime and not spy on citizens.
Spying by the Mexican authorities is now limited to pursuing criminals, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said Tuesday after the country found itself caught up in a global surveillance scandal.
"What intelligence is there to fighting crime, to protect citizens, not to spy on opponents, political leaders, party leaders, owners of large companies, churches," he told reporters.
An international media investigation revealed that 15 000 Mexican smartphone numbers were among more than 50 000 believed to have been selected by clients of Israeli firm NSO Group for potential surveillance.
They include numbers linked to 25 journalists and even Lopez Obrador's inner circle before he took office.
Lopez Obrador's wife, children, brother and even his cardiologist were among those selected as possible targets using Pegasus malware between 2016 and 2017, according to Mexican news site Aristegui Noticias.
At the time, he was the opposition leader and political rival of then president Enrique Pena Nieto.
The leftist leader alleged that he had been spied on since the 1970s, including by the government of former president Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994).
He said that "no one is spied on" anymore and he did not believe a current NSO contract exists with anyone in Mexico, but if it does "it must be canceled."
According to the Pegasus Project investigation, Mexican agencies that have acquired the spyware include the defense ministry, the attorney general's office and the national security intelligence service.