July 8, 2013 8:00 pm

Brazil acts on US spying allegations

Brazil pledged to push through anti-spying measures at the UN and International Telecommunications Union after allegations that it is the biggest foreign target of US espionage in the Americas.

The Brazilian Senate was reportedly set to summon the US ambassador to respond to the accusations, in which local newspaper O Globo reported that the US National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency kept satellite surveillance teams in the country at least until 2002.

“Brazil will launch . . . UN initiatives aimed at prohibiting abuse and preventing invasion of privacy of virtual network users, establishing clear standards of behaviour for states in the field of information and telecommunications in order to ensure cyber security,” foreign minister Antonio Patriota said.

The allegations add to Brazil’s growing indignation over the matter of fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked documents regarding US monitoring of telephone and email traffic.

Dilma Rousseff, the president of Latin America’s largest country, was outraged over the treatment in Europe last week of Bolivian president Evo Morales, whose flight was forced to stop in Austria amid unfounded suspicions he was harbouring Mr Snowden in his private jet.

Mr Morales has said Bolivia would offer Mr Snowden asylum if asked. But the former contractor is still stranded at the international airport in Moscow while he assesses his options.

“We have to debate the protection of secrets of our cyber system, our hiring of satellites, all of this has to be discussed,” said Brazilian senator Ricardo Ferraço, in O Globo.

The controversy in Brazil follows a story in O Globo co-written by Glenn Greenwald, a journalist for the Guardian, the British newspaper that originally received some of the leaked documents from Mr Snowden.

In a report with the banner, “The American Big Brother and Brazil”, O Globo cited documents from Mr Snowden to conclude that the country was one of the priority nations for US spies alongside China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan.

It alleged that access to information on individuals and corporate entities in Brazil was obtained through US companies that had partnerships with local groups in the Latin American country. But it did not give details.

It also did not provide information for the amount of traffic monitored but alleged that Brazil was the second-largest target outside of the US itself in the Americas.

“The Brazilian government has requested clarification from the US government through the embassy of Brazil in Washington as well as from the United States ambassador to Brazil,” Mr Patriota said.

The US embassy in Brasília released a state department statement saying the US would respond through diplomatic channels to “its partners and allies” on the issue.

“While we are not going to comment publicly on specific alleged intelligence activities; as a matter of policy we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations,” the statement said.


Letter in response to this report:

Who’s profiting from the espionage? / From Mr Lee Steinberg

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