Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff says Canada has violated her country’s sovereignty and demanded an explanation for “unacceptable” spying carried out by Communications Security Establishment Canada on Brazil’s Ministry of Mines and Energy.
The spying was revealed Sunday night by Brazil’s flagship investigative program Fantastico, in a report made by Sonia Bridi and the American journalist Glenn Greenwald, who lives in Rio. It is based on documents from the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
“The fact that the Ministry of Mines and Energy was the target of espionage confirms the economic and strategic reasons behind such acts,” she said in a stream of tweets Monday morning.
According to Natural Resources Canada, there are 40 Canadian mining companies working in Brazil, with an aggregate value of $4.7-billion of assets in this country.
“Although the Ministry has good systems of data protection, I have asked Minister Lobão to do a rigorous evaluation and improve these systems,” Ms. Rousseff tweeted, referring to Mines and Energy Minister Edison Lobão. “The report points to Canadian interests in mining. The Foreign Ministry will demand explanations from Canada. The espionage infringes on the sovereignty of nations and the privacy of individuals and enterprises. It is urgent that the U.S. and its allies end their espionage once and for all. It is unacceptable among countries that claim to be partners. We reject the cyberwar.”
On Monday, Brazil’s Foreign Affairs Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado called Jamal Khokhar, Canada’s ambassador in Brasilia, to convey the “indignation” of the Brazilian government, the foreign ministry said in a statement, and “demanded an explanation about press reports that electronic and telephonic communications from the Ministry of Mines and Energy Ministry and high-ranking government servers were the subject of espionage by a Canadian intelligence agency.”
Mr. Machado told Mr. Khokhar that this is a “grave violation of national sovereignty and of the rights of both citizens and businesses,” according to the statement.
The embassy in Brasilia declined to comment on the reports or the statement. Mr. Khokhar could not be reached.
When pressed Monday for comment on allegations that CSEC spied on Brazilians, the Harper government gave repeated indirect answers to the question, saying CSEC does not conduct surveillance on Canadians.
“This organization cannot and does not target Canadians under Canadian law,” Defence Minister Rob Nicholson said.
CSEC did not respond to the allegations.
Mr. Lobão declined through a spokesperson to comment on the revelations. In a statement, he said that the President had already clearly conveyed the “indignation” of the government and the Brazilian people with foreign espionage, calling it “a practice that violates international rights and insults the principles that should govern the relationship between countries.”
He added: “The invasion of communication systems and data storage of the Ministry of Mines and Energy, denounced by the Globo Network TV show Fantastico, is very serious, and suggests the effort to obtain strategic information related to the ministry’s areas of business. We must condemn it. Although the Ministry of Mines and Energy has a data protection system considered among the most secure, and most of our information is in the public domain, I am determined to do a rigorous evaluation and reinforcement of this system, to attempt to establish what might have been the target of this espionage.”
“Several Canadian companies have shown interest in our country,” Mr. Lobão told Fantastico last week. “Whether that means the aim of this espionage is to boost business for certain groups, I can’t say.”
He added that ministry servers had clearly been targeted. “These servers use private encryption, which means they are protected by a series of codes. One of the servers, for instance, is used to contact the National Oil Agency, Petrobras, Eletrobras, the National Department of Mineral Production and even the President of the Republic. These are State conversations, government strategies which no one should be able to eavesdrop.”
The ministry holds video conferences with Ms. Rousseff via these servers, he said; “It’s regrettable that all of this is being exposed to espionage.”
In fact, it is not news that the Canadian government shares intelligence with the business community.
In 2007, then natural Resources minister Gary Lunn told the International Pipeline Security Forum, an industry gathering, “We have sponsored over 200 industry representatives in obtaining Secret Level II security clearance. This enables us to share information with industry and their associations so that the appropriate security enhancement measures can be adopted.”
This initiative appears to have begun as a way to allow energy companies access to government intelligence on threats to infrastructure, but grew into a broader sharing of information on industry critics, according to Keith Stewart, the Climate and Energy Campaign Coordinator for the environmental organization Greenpeace, who has studied the question of who is getting access to this intelligence.
“At Greenpeace, we worry about a blurring of the line between genuine terrorist threats and peaceful political critics,” said Mr. Stewart. “But given the precedent of blurring the lines, at Natural Resources’ behest, between government intelligence gathering and the private sector, it would be worth asking if any of those 200-plus industry representatives with that clearance are from the mining industry and what kind of briefings they are getting.”
With a report from Steven Chase