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Mexico: Defense Department Ordered to Release Information on Drones

(June 17, 2016) In May 2016, Mexico’s National Institute of Transparency, Access to Information and Protection of Personal Data (the federal authority on matters pertaining to access to public information, known as INAI) ordered the Department of Defense (known as SEDENA) to release information on the number of drones that it uses for aerial surveillance. (Press Release, INAI/091/16, SEDENA debe dar a conocer número de drones con los que cuenta para tareas de vigilancia aérea [Defense Department Must Publicize the Number of Drones It Has for Aerial Surveillance] (May 30, 2016).)

According to a press release issued by INAI, SEDENA had turned down on the grounds of national security and public safety a request it received from a private citizen for information on the surveillance drones.  The private citizen then appealed that decision to INAI.  (Id.)

On this issue, Mexican law provides that all information in the possession of authorities of the executive, legislative, or judicial branches at the federal, state, and local levels of government is considered public, and access to such information may only be denied if it is classified as reserved, e.g., for reasons of national security, or confidential because it involves private data pertaining to identifiable individuals. (Ley General de Transparencia y Acceso a la Información Pública [General Law on Transparency and Access to Public Information], arts. 4, 23, 100, 113 & 116, DIARIO OFICIAL DE LA FEDERACIÓN (May 4, 2015), the Chamber of Deputies of the Congress of the Union website.)  Denials of requested information may be appealed to INAI. (Id. arts. 3-XIII, 41-II, 142, 143.)

In its decision, INAI indicated that information on the number of drones used by SEDENA could not be deemed classified, because such information, by itself, does not reveal more specific information (such as the location of the drones, the way they operate, the operations in which they are used, etc.), which if revealed could obstruct SEDENA in carrying out its duties. (SEDENAedena debe dar a conocer número de drones con los que cuenta para tareas de vigilancia aérea, supra.)