The Engineering Life--Around the Web
Drug king pins don’t usually have much time for nerds. Unless, of course, those nerds happen to be incredibly bright engineers able to build out clandestine radio networks.
An alarming report in Wired Thursday (Nov. 1) highlighted the disturbing phenomenon of disappearing Mexican engineers, kidnapped by drug lords like the deadly Zetas to build shadow communication networks, which allow the cartels not only to communicate securely, but also to hack military radio systems.
According to the report, at least 36 engineers and technicians have been kidnapped over the past four years alone, disappearing without a trace and no word to their families.
Hidden in rocky, off-the-beaten-track terrain, powered by solar cells, “Radio Zeta” apparently thrives, despite the best efforts of the Mexican government to shut it down. Even the dismantling of over 167 illegal radio antennas last year alone did not make a dent in the organization’s capabilities.
Like a Medusa, the cartel simply stole more equipment and set up an even wider web.
Horror stories of masked gunmen hijacking radio antenna contractors from Nuevo Laredo, a border town and Zeta stronghold, an IBM engineer snatched from the wrong side of the Texas border and tales of others bundled into cars from outside their workplaces have become almost commonplace.
The Mexican government seems at a loss to help.
It’s an incredibly sorry and scary situation. But of course, kidnapping engineers is not exactly a new phenomenon. After all, weren’t the pyramids –one of the greatest wonders of the ancient world-- built by slaves?
If knowledge is power, by kidnapping engineers, the drug cartels have managed to forcibly enhance themselves from simply being a group of underworld thugs into something much, much more dangerous.