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Crime Communications

The Phone Dragnet That Caught the World's Top Drug Lord 62

Posted by timothy
from the prohibition-as-a-rube-goldberg-machine dept.
Daniel_Stuckey writes "The contacts on Zambada-Ortiz's phone, which officials seized, would prove critical in pinpointing cartel stash houses strewn across Sinaloa state in mountainous northwest Mexico. Crucially, the episode would breathe new life into the joint US-Mexico dragnet that recently caught Chapo, who'd been at large for 13 years after famously escaping from Mexican prison in a laundry basket. Zambada-Ortiz's capture and the data scraped from his phone led to more and more Sinaloa phones until a month ago, when Mexican authorities (moving on American intelligence work) successfully carried out a number of raids that scored a cache of weapons and the arrests of a few of Chapo's senior henchmen. With each apprehension came another phone full of leads, 'a new trove of information for officials to mine,' as TIME reported. Then, sometime last week, Mexican commandos 'traced a number stored in a seized cell phone to a stash house outside the provincial capital of Culiacan, where they believed Guzman was hiding,' TIME added."
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The Phone Dragnet That Caught the World's Top Drug Lord

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  • by AvitarX (172628) <me@@@brandywinehundred...org> on Thursday February 27, 2014 @12:33PM (#46358513) Journal

    is that traditional investigative work functions to capture people, and not indiscriminate collection of meta data.

    • I agree, but recall that congress raised gigantic stink about this exact same kind of "traditional investigative work" [wikipedia.org]. For no other reason than an imagined slight on guns.

      Politics in this country is poisonous towards doing things right, and apathetic towards abuses.

      • Wikipedia sucks with their damned, redirects. And that's all I have to say about my mistake.

      • by Sockatume (732728) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @12:45PM (#46358695)

        I'm not sure what more than ten hours of white-knuckle racing action has to do with this, but I've really got to start watching CSPAN if that's what congress gets up to.

      • by Sockatume (732728)

        I thought the issue with Operation Fast and Furious was that it basically let a lot of known gun-running operations act unhindered, while getting no real result?

        • Of course it failed, it wasn't a well-done traditional investigation, but come on, it's the feds, do you expect constant competence?

        • Oh they got results, its just the opposite of what most sheeple would expect they want.

          The truth starts to come into view when you see US troops guarding poppy fields
          in Afghanistan, and then Pat Tillman says he is gonna blab and ends up dead.

      • by Tailhook (98486)

        Weapons from Holders anti-gun gambit have turned up [cnn.com] as recently as 10 weeks ago in major shoots-outs with Mexican authorities. The gift that keeps on giving has the ATF issuing another statement accepting responsibility for their "mistakes" and "errors" funneling rifles into Mexico to create a gigantic stink over US firearms.

      • Traditional investigational work would have some sort of mechanism for recovering these guns or being able to track them to the end buyers then making arrests/dismantling the drug cartels, which was the stated mission objective. The problem is that nobody informed Mexican police or shared the intel with them which is suspicious since the objective was to dismantle drug cartels in Mexico. They let 1,600 guns go and had no mechanism to track them beyond the straw purchasers. Either the people running the oper
        • The people who planned it didn't understand the technical implications of their plan. This isn't the same as violating peoples' rights.

          • What technical implications were so hard to understand? You permit people to buy guns illegally, stop agents from arresting the smugglers and straw buyers with the cache of illegally purchased weapons, watch the weapons disappear over the boarder, but do not inform the Mexican police. How can anyone be shocked when these weapons are found at crime scenes? Multiple field agents are on record of questioning this tactic.

            You are making the assumption that ignorance was the culprit is very naive. The delaying
            • I feel like on slashdot, a lot of people can't really come to terms with how incredibly nontechnical your average person is. The trackers have a range at which they can be detected, and a battery that can only keep them on so long, and you're tracking them across national borders.

              Now, any slashdotter is immediately going to intuit that they're going to need them constantly on to keep track of where they are, and follow at safe distance, which they could do without using the technical solution. To other pe

              • As someone who went to GSM seminars, and AIN for cell networks they can
                just follow the tower hand offs.

                For awhile ppl could get antennas that glowed when they transmitted, and one
                of my co-workers on the SS7 let me know he could watch the tower hand offs
                as he moved from "cell zone" to "cell zone".

                https://forums.att.com/t5/3G-M... [att.com]

      • by jxander (2605655)

        Not sure if you were being facetious... but "give guns to bad guys and see what happens" isn't exactly traditional investigative work. (hoping the quotes imply "sarcasm")

        • The government running guns and drugs is not really about trying to investigate anything
          but limit their competition.

          Ask Mr. Ruppert.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

          • I found out about this guy by watching the film Collapse in 2009, and since then
            I see the US in a totally different perspective.

            The funny thing was I thought I was awake after seeing "911 press for truth", but
            honestly I did not know just how bad it really was til watching Collapse in 2009.

      • You mean that it is traditional to encourage known criminals to commit obtain a device to be used in a crime and then stop following the device when it is passed off to another party.
        The "logic" offered behind Fast and Furious was that it was an attempt to trace straw purchases to the higher ups who were ordering the guns. The problem with that was that the "higher ups" were in Mexico and they did not inform the Mexican government, or even the U.S. agents working in Mexico, that they were doing this. In a
        • by Talderas (1212466)

          It's almost as though the ATF planned this operation to confirm what the high level officials were saying. That's conspiracy though and that certainly could never happen.

    • Wrong issue (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jaydge (720092) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @12:54PM (#46358839)
      People aren't concerned about being captured right now - they're concerned that indiscriminate collection of their data strips their privacy and allows a future regime who doesn't like people like them to easily group them with the "terrorists" of the day.
    • is that traditional investigative work functions to capture people, and not indiscriminate collection of meta data.

      Actually, I suspect that in the near future we'll find out that the NSA cracked the phones or something. I find it hard to believe the Mexican/US government couldn't have nailed this guy years ago. They usually leave these "Big fish" alone because a headless cartel is less predictable than one with a boss they can manipulate and control. I suspect this is all an orchestrated publicity stunt.

      • is that traditional investigative work functions to capture people, and not indiscriminate collection of meta data.

        Actually, I suspect that in the near future we'll find out that the NSA cracked the phones or something. I find it hard to believe the Mexican/US government couldn't have nailed this guy years ago. They usually leave these "Big fish" alone because a headless cartel is less predictable than one with a boss they can manipulate and control. I suspect this is all an orchestrated publicity stunt.

        "Mexican authorities (moving on American intelligence work) successfully carried out a number of raids...."

        Yup; either he stopped behaving "predictably" or they had some other reason to shut him down. I found it interesting that they didn't even use the "false trail" trick of having Mexican authorities carrying out a "routine inspection" that just happened to coincide with some American Intelligence which suggested they carry out this inspection. I guess when it's not in the US, they can be more active (a

    • ...is that these people did not invest in a "Backup & Reset -> Factory data reset -> Reset Phone" shortcut directly on their primary homescreen. You would think that anyone carrying a phone with sensitive data that can be seized would want lots of practice in erasing a phone.
      • by pjt33 (739471)

        Because when people are pointing guns at your head, your first priority is going to be to reach into your pocket for your phone, and not to get your hands above your head...

      • I loaded Cyanogenmod 10.2 on my Nook last weekend, and there is now an option to "Encrypt Tablet" - supposedly it takes about a half hour, and it must be done on a full battery while connected to external power.

        Will Cyanogenmod 10.2 do the same thing when running on a phone?

      • It would too difficult to erase it in an emergency. Better criminals would use some kind of encryption layer so that the data can not be decrypted. And a special "unlock" code, which they will reveal to the cops after putting enough of a show, that will actually erase everything.

        It is a good thing you and I are not criminals. The cops would be so totally outsmarted.

    • is that traditional investigative work functions to capture people, and not indiscriminate collection of meta data.

      Another thing that you should get, is that indiscriminate blabbing to the press about your investigative methods renders those methods ineffective. Now that investigators have intentionally made it public knowledge how they caught Guzman, other cartels will change how they use cellphones.

    • by otc-lame (3548441)

      is that traditional investigative work functions to capture people, and not indiscriminate collection of meta data.

      But just think of how quickly they could've caught teh evil turrrists if they had everyone's phone info! Then they wouldn't have had to go through all of those steps to get the one guy they wanted! See, it's a budget-saver too, and we all know the budget is out of control. Problem solved.

    • Well he probably was not cooperating with the group that was receiving tax payer
      funded weapons from operation fast and furious, and operation gun walker.

      It could be worse, he could have ended up like barry seal.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

      When you know too much about CIA drug running you may end up dead
      such as Pat Tillman, thou he did say he was going to go talk to Noam Chomsky, so....

      "Despite his fame, Tillman did not want to be used for propaganda purposes. He spoke to friends about his opposition to

  • Misleading Title (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 27, 2014 @01:02PM (#46359013)

    This is just old-fashioned police work. I don't see where a "phone dragnet" was used. When did slashdot become pro-NSA?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I agree, scraping the phone-books of arrestees is not a dragnet.

      Using the phone numbers in those books as probable cause for a warrant seems like an easy barrier. Using that evidence to get more arrests makes sense. Using those arrests to get more numbers...

      Yes, this is how police work is supposed to work.

  • and next time, (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cellocgw (617879) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <wgcollec>> on Thursday February 27, 2014 @01:27PM (#46359387) Journal

    The drug lords will wise up and use burner phones, replacing them every X days. Gosh, don't they even watch The Wire down there in Mexico?

    • by CKW (409971)

      They still need to store that massive list of crucial phone numbers somewhere, and also increase communication via other means in order to propogate the phone number changes.

      The only thing burner phones is good for is not allowing the cops to easily pull your number from phone company records by name so as to put a trace on your phone.

      Instead they have do do actual legwork to figure out what phone you're calling from, and depending on which opponents you are facing and whether they have "high priority" FBI/

  • OR... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by headhot (137860) on Thursday February 27, 2014 @01:45PM (#46359649) Homepage

    it was the NSA and they used parallel construction.

  • Whack-A-Mole (Score:2, Informative)

    Effing pointless. Legalization would actually improve everything - except militarized police budgets and powers, which IS the effing point.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I dunno, last time I checked the CEOs/Chairmen of InBev, Nestle, Segrams, Starbucks, etc... were all still at large.

  • It doesn't matter how many middle men you eliminate, as long as the most drug-addicted country in the world is waiting at the end of the line for it's product.

    Eliminate the USA, then we'd see the cartels disappear.

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