Monday, November 4, 2013

Brazilian Legislators Urge Investigation Into Spying on Diplomats

Brazilian legislators want to look into their country’s intelligence activities after the government admitted to the surveillance of foreign diplomats.

Rep. Ronaldo Caiado will reportedly summon the Ministers of Justice, Foreign Affairs and Domestic Security along with the chief of the Brazilian Intelligence Agency (ABIN) to testify in front of several Congressional committees.  He questioned the Brazilian government’s credibility abroad, particularly in light of alleged widespread surveillance by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA).

“The (Brazilian) government lost a golden opportunity to have entered high-level discussions with the Americans and possibly reach a deal instead of making a big deal over being the target of surveillance,” said Caiado.

“These charges of espionage must be taken very seriously but we have to see the context in which they occurred,” said Sen. Richard Ferraço.  “If not, then it would seem like two different measures: do as I say but not as I do,” admitted the vice-chair of the Congressional committee on intelligence.    

On Monday, a Folha de São Paulo report that described how approximately ten years ago the ABIN monitored office space rented by the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia due to suspicions of maintaining spying equipment.  The Folha report also outlined how Brazilian intelligence agents followed the movements of Iraqi, Iranian and Russian diplomats in their respective embassies as well as their official residences.

A statement from Brazil's Institutional Security Cabinet, which oversees the ABIN, claimed that any surveillance is being done “develop intelligence activities” for the country’s defense and “national sovereignty, in strict observance of constitutional principles and the laws that guarantee individual rights.”  The letter also said that their intelligence operations “follow Brazilian law for the protection of national interests.”

One Russian diplomat in Brazil was supposedly not bewildered by the Folha report:

“It's kind of basic stuff when you think about it,” said Fernando Sampaio, 70, Russia's honorary consul in the southern city of Porto Alegre and one of the targets of Brazil's spying program, according to the newspaper report, which was based on an Abin document.
“Governments spy, what a surprise,” Mr. Sampaio, a lawyer who has long worked to open Russian markets for Brazilian beef exports, said by telephone. “I've long suspected that my phone line was tapped, and it probably still is,” he added.
The surveillance report comes days after Brazil joined with Germany created a U.N. draft resolution seeking an end to excessive electronic surveillance and data collection.  The proposal to the international body’s General Assembly calls on member states “to take measures to put an end to violations of these rights and to create the conditions to prevent such violations, including by ensuring that relevant national legislation complies with their obligations under international human rights law.”

The surveillance outlined by Folha was done under the administration of then-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.  His successor, Dilma Rousseff, strongly criticized the NSA of “indiscriminately intercepting” information from Brazilians including her personal phone and email.

Video Source– YouTube via PBS NewsHour (“President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, addressed the UN General Assembly (in September), lashing out at the National Security Agency's reported spying on Brazil.”)

Online Sources - Folha de São Paulo; Sydney Morning Herald; Reuters; The Latin Americanist

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