Here is an excerpt from Ginger Thompson and Mark Mazzetti's article in The New York Times:
"Stepping up its involvement in Mexico’s drug war, the Obama administration has begun sending drones deep into Mexican territory to gather intelligence that helps locate major traffickers and follow their networks, according to American and Mexican officials. 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... 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... Pentagon, State Department, Homeland Security and Mexican officials declined to comment publicly about the introduction of drones in Mexico’s counternarcotics efforts. But some officials, speaking only on the condition of anonymity, said the move was evidence of the two countries’ deepening cooperation in efforts to prevail over a common threat." Link to Full Article
Analysis: The timing of this article is pretty interesting for me, because I just gave a short presentation at US Northern Command's annual counternarcotics conference on DoD support to drug war efforts. Some media outlets on both sides of the border may make this out to be controversial, or OMG, we're spying on Mexico!! But it's not like that at all, and this is actually a really good thing.
First of all, I can tell you first-hand that DoD is completely committed to helping our law enforcement agencies and the Mexican government in this fight however they can. NORTHCOM is also extremely sensitive to Mexico's domestic concerns over violation of sovereignty, and has taken great care to publicly tell anyone who will listen that US military support to Mexico is by-invitation-only, and within all legal constraints.
I'm not surprised at all that these drone flights were kept secret; I would have done the same thing. ICE is saying that these flights helped collect intelligence that nailed the killers of Agent Zapata last month; I'm sure they'll continue to collect useful intelligence in the future, that will likely be shared with (trustworthy, hopefully) Mexican counterparts.
Overall, while I think this situation has the potential to be blown way out of proportion by both American and Mexican media, I really think that as long as both governments can adequately portray the positive aspects of these flights and US military assistance, the Mexican people will ultimately be OK with it. While they're still in the minority, the number of Mexicans who want even more US military assistance (in the form of boots on the ground) has grown to 25%, according to a Pew Research Center poll from last year. That number is actually huge, if you know anything about how much Mexico generally resents any type of US involvement in their affairs.
After hearing some presentations and many comments at that conference yesterday, I hope that these drone flights are actually just the beginning of such cooperation between our militaries and governments, and that future DoD assistance and involvement can continue to achieve some tangible - and meaningful - results.