Brazil’s Ministry of Mines and Energy and the Latin American Energy Organization (OLADE) have been targets of espionage by American and Canadian agencies. A new set of documents provided by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed on Globo TV on Sunday night show that the most secure communication network in Brasilia has been mapped by U.S. and Canadian spies in surprising detail.
The result of this monitoring is a detailed map of the Ministry’s communications during a period not specified in the document.
After the latest revelations made by The Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald with a Globo reporter, Brazil’s relations with the U.S. are likely to sink to a new low as it becomes clear that Brazil has been targeted by the NSA mainly for economic reasons, with eyes on its vast natural resources.
According to Mr. Greenwald, who is also collaborating with The Hindu on NSA documents related to India, the U.S. and Canadian agencies used a computer programme called Olympia to map all of the Ministry’s telephone and computer communications, including e-mails. The caption on one of the slides of the top secret document reveals the real aim of the Canadian agency: “Discover contacts of my target” — the Brazilian Ministry of Mines and Energy.
According to the report, the main target of spying was a room in the Ministry, which stores files with all data on the country’s energy and mineral resources. The room, called The Safe, has steel walls and it is considered the most secure network in Brasilia. It has the same kind of security used by big banks and yet, reveals the NSA document, has been mapped by spies in surprising detail.
The Olympia programme tracked the Ministry’s communications with countries like Canada, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Afghanistan, Iran, South Africa, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Poland and Singapore.
This NSA presentation was shown last June at a yearly meeting of analysts from intelligence agencies from five countries. The group is called Five Eyes: the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Mr. Snowden was present at the conference.
In the presentation, phone calls made from the Ministry to other countries were used as examples. In Ecuador, the numbers called more often are those of OLADE, the Latin American Energy Organization. In Peru, the number belongs to the Brazilian Embassy.
The latest revelations have sent shock waves in Brasilia as the servers which were targeted use private encryption, which means they are protected by a series of codes. All the servers have very sensitive information.
One of the servers is used to contact the state oil agency, Petrobras, the National Department of Mineral Production and even the President. It has already been established that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and Petrobras have also been targeted by American spies. And now it appears that both may have been monitored indirectly by accessing the mining Ministry’s servers.
As the communications passing through these servers are high-level conversations about government strategies, they are supposed to be safe from eavesdropping. But the NSA document reveals that the Canadian agency accessed the communications between the Ministry’s computers and computers in countries in West Asia, South Africa, and in Canada itself.
Speaking on the Sunday programme, information security expert Paulo Pagliusi said he was astonished by the power of the spying tools, especially by the detailed and straightforward way in which the process is explained to intelligence agents and how thoroughly the Brazilian Ministry’s communications were dissected. The Olympia programme is so effective it even identified cell phone numbers, chip registry and even make and model of the cell phones.
The new revelations are certain to spark a diplomatic row between Brazil and Canada. Three of the world’s four largest mining companies are based in Canada. “This is a grave issue which needs to be condemned. President Rousseff already has done so strongly at the United Nations,” said the Brazilian Minister of Mines and Energy, Edison Lobão, on Sunday.
In her speech at the U.N. General Assembly last month, Ms. Rousseff had taken the U.S. to task for monitoring the private communication of Brazilian citizens.
“Telecommunication and information technologies cannot become a new battlefield between States,” she had said in her landmark speech in front of world leaders.