The Brazilian TV station reported that the National Security Agency (NSA) spied on Petrobras, Brazil’s state-run oil company, as well as a company that assists most of the world’s bank transfers and the private computer networks of Google.
According to the report, all three of these Brazilian companies are incorporated into a NSA training manual so that new agents can gauge an understanding of how to target computer networks of large corporations. (1)
US journalist, Glen Greenwald, who is living in Rio de Janeiro, worked on the Globo report. Greenwald was the journalist to break the stories about NSA’s program that collects phone and Internet data.
The report about documents leaked by Snowden that show the US spied on the Brazilian oil company came just a week after Greenwald and the Globo Network stated NSA documents revealed that the US had monitored the president of Brazil.
Globo also claimed that official documents leaked by Snowden prove that US agents also spied on the new president of Mexico, prior to election.
Globo TV did not, however, disclose any information about what intel the NSA may have obtained from Petrobras, Google and SWIFT, the Belgium-based Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication. SWIFT oversees what are supposed to be secure international bank transfers.
New Allegations Against NSA
In the wake of the fresh allegations involving the NSA spying on the Brazilian oil company, SWIFT and Google, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has demanded answers from the US government.
The White House and US intelligence agencies have maintained that its surveillance programs are used to help counter terrorism. In a press conference held in August this year, President Obama defended the NSA surveillance strategy, deeming it as being necessary to protect American and its citizens against further terrorist attacks.
“Intelligence that helps us protect the American people and they’re worth preserving,” Obama said at the conference with regards to PRISM and other NSA surveillance programs. (2)
In spying on Brazil’s state-run oil company, President Rousseff questions US motives behind its surveillance tactics. In a statement, the Brazilian president refers to the NSA spy tactics as having “economic and strategic interests”.
“If the facts in the report are confirmed, then it’s evident that the motive for the espionage is not security or to fight terrorism, but economic and strategic interests,” President Rousseff said in an e-mailed statement. (3)
Brazil Wants Answers
In a recent meeting between President Rousseff and President Obama, the US leader promised to provide explanations about the NSA espionage program.
“The Brazilian government is determined to obtain clarifications from the US government about any possible violations committed,” Rousseff’s statement said. (3)
Also in an e-mailed statement, Petrobras said that it was aware of Globo’s report and that it takes the most state-of-the-art precautions available to protect its computer network.
Petrobras is Brazil’s biggest oil company. The country relies on Petrobras to supply low-cost, subsidized fuel to its increasingly growing economy. It should be noted that in making such subsidies, Petrobras is losing $8 billion a year in predetermined income and has been forced to sell assets and bonds in order to survive. (4)
As Brazil’s president said in a statement about the scandal, “Clearly, Petrobras is not a threat to the security of any country.” Why therefore would the NSA want to spy on a crude oil company that is, according to Bloomberg, selling debt and $9.9 billion in assets to help finance about $47 billion a year of investments through 2017? (5)
Christopher Helman, an energy industry reporter for Forbes, says he is not at all shocked that the NSA has been spying on Petrobras.
“It would be more shocking if the NSA weren’t gathering every fact it could on Brazil and Petrobras, a bloated, state-controlled behemoth reportedly rife with corruption,” wrote Helman. (5)
If Petrobras is weakened, so is Brazil, which means a less stable South America. Forbes explains that before Rousseff became president of Brazil she was the country’s minister of energy. Rousseff held this position for four years until 2005 when she become chief of staff to Lula and finally ran for presidency. Due to her connection with the energy industry, Forbes claims that what goes on at Petrobras is “part and parcel with the Rousseff administration”.
“The NSA spying on Petrobras is no different from the NSA spying on the Brazilian government. And if you’re surprised and disturbed that the US government spies on other governments then you just need to wake up,” states Helman’s report. (5)
The NSA, however, has another explanation as to why it is within the US’s interest to collect economical and financial information. In a statement, James Clapper, director of the US national intelligence, said that it is “not a secret that the Intelligence Community collects information about economic and financial matters, and terrorist financing”.
Clapper went on to say that the NSA collects information in order to provide “the United States and our allies early warning of international financial crisis which would negatively impact the global economy. It also could provide insight into other countries’ economic policy or behavior which could affect global markets.” (3)
In August this year a report in the German news publication, Der Spielgel, claimed that documents obtained by Snowden showed that the NSA spied on the UN and the European Union. Just a couple of weeks later, another scandal involving Snowden’s leaked documents revealed that the NSA has been spying on Brazil’s largest crude oil company.
It doesn’t take an energy expert or even a conspiracy theorist to come to the conclusion that the US’s espionage motives run much deeper than merely being a means of countering terrorism and protecting the security of the United States.