A Canadian spying agency has apparently targeted Brazil’s Mines and Energy Ministry with a program capable of mapping phone calls, emails and video conferences by those inside the ministry, according to documents from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
The report aired on Brazilian television further suggested Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) sought to develop the Ministry as a target. The goal was to map out the communications as part of a software program named Olympia.
Slides, according to The Globe and Mail in Canada, showed “CSEC focused on ministry portable devices and was able to identify their carriers (such as Brazil Telecom SA or Global Village Telecom), the kind of hardware being used (for example a Nokia 3120 or an Android-based Motorola MRUQ7) and metadata about where calls were placed, in countries such as Peru, Venezuela, Poland, Singapore, Great Britain.”
The phone of a career diplomat, Paulo Cordeiro de Andrade Pinto, who from 2008 to 2011 was ambassador to Canada and is now Brazil’s Under Secretary for Middle East and Africa, was targeted.
CSEC also worked with “hacking specialists” in a unit in the NSA to conduct what are called Tailored Access Operations to possibly conduct a “Man on the Side operation,” jargon for eavesdropping.
Brazil President Dilma Rousseff, already infuriated in the past month by reports that the NSA spied on Brazil’s state-controlled oil company, Petrobras, reacted that this violated Brazil’s sovereignty and “demanded an explanation for ‘unacceptable’ spying carried out by Communications Security Establishment Canada on Brazil’s Ministry of Mines and Energy,” according to The Globe and Mail.
She apparently delivered her reaction on Twitter and additionally stated the “Ministry has good systems of data protection” but the energy minister will do a “rigorous evaluation” to ensure they are improved. The Foreign Ministry will demand an explanation because “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,” Rousseff declared. She summoned the Canadian ambassador to respond to the revelations.
Glenn Greenwald, who worked with Globo on the story, told The Globe and Mail in an interview that there was nothing unique about what Canada was doing. “It’s not like Brazil is the only target for Canada.”
“The reason this is so newsworthy is that the U.S. and its allies love to say the only reason they are doing this kind of mass surveillance is they want to stop terrorism and protect national security – but these documents make clear it is industrial and economic competition, it’s about mining resources and minerals,” Greenwald added.
On the use of Tailored Access Operations or hacking, he said this was “one of the most aggressive and insidious parts of the NSA. They’re hackers. They hack other people’s computers exactly the way hackers that the U.S. puts in prison do.” And Canada is working in cooperation with this unit engaged in hacking.
Canada actually has a formal arrangement where it shares intelligence with businesses. This was established so that businesses could assess threats to their infrastructure. It has morphed into a program that allows businesses to collect information on critics.
Over two hundred industry representatives have a security clearance as a result and what briefings they receive is unknown.
The federal government in Canada considers Brazil a “priority market.” There are more than 50 Canadian companies in the mining sector active in Brazil.
On September 24, before the United Nations General Assembly, Rousseff called attention to the “activities of a global network of electronic espionage.” She highlighted spying on Brazilian diplomatic missions, including the Permanent Mission to the United Nations and the Office of the President of the Republic.
“Tampering in such a manner in the affairs of other countries is a breach of international law and is an affront to the principles that must guide the relations among them, especially among friendly nations,” Rousseff stated. “A sovereign nation can never establish itself to the detriment of another sovereign nation. The right to safety of citizens of one country can never be guaranteed by violating fundamental human rights of citizens of another country.”
Furthermore, she contended, “As many other Latin Americans, I fought against authoritarianism and censorship, and I cannot but defend, in an uncompromising fashion, the right to privacy of individuals and the sovereignty of my country. In the absence of the right to privacy, there can be no true freedom of expression and opinion, and therefore no effective democracy. In the absence of the respect for sovereignty, there is no basis for the relationship among nations.”