In February 2010, an undercover F.B.I. agent met in a Manhattan hotel with a Colombian info-tech expert who had been the target of a sensitive investigation. The I.T. specialist, Cristian Rodriguez, had recently developed an extraordinary product: an encrypted communications system for Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the Mexican drug lord known as El Chapo.
Posing as a Russian mobster, the undercover agent told Mr. Rodriguez he was interested in acquiring a similar system. He wanted a way — or so he said — to talk with his associates without law enforcement listening in.
So began a remarkable clandestine operation that in a little more than a year allowed the F.B.I. to crack Mr. Guzmán's covert network and ultimately capture as many as 200 digital phone calls of him chatting with his underlings, planning ton-sized drug deals and even discussing illicit payoffs to Mexican officials. The hours of Mr. Guzmán speaking openly about the innermost details of his empire not only represented the most damaging evidence introduced so far at his drug trial in New York, but were also one of the most extensive wiretaps of a criminal defendant since the Mafia boss John Gotti was secretly recorded [nytimes.com] in the Ravenite Social Club.
[...] In a daring move that placed his life in danger, the I.T. consultant eventually gave the F.B.I. his system's secret encryption keys in 2011 after he had moved the network's servers from Canada to the Netherlands during what he told the cartel's leaders was a routine upgrade.
Previously: Sean Penn Interview Reportedly Led to Capture of Mexican Drug Lord [soylentnews.org]