A new revelation based on documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that appeared on a Brazilian investigative news show on Sunday night showed that the Canadian intelligence agency, the CSEC, shared with its U.S. counterpart how it used high-tech surveillance to perform "economic espionage" on oil and gas companies in Brazil.
The internal documents, created by the CSEC and reportedly shared with the U.S. agency, shows how it tapped into computers and smartphones affiliated with Brazil’s mining and energy ministry in hopes of gaining "economic intelligence."
The key element of the new disclosure, according to journalist Glenn Greenwald, is how the revealed program again betrays claims by the NSA and similar agencies around the world that their surveillance programs are designed solely to protect citizens from the scourge of terrorism. As he tweeted Monday:
Wasn't really a smart idea for NSA to tell the world its mass surveillance is for terrorism, not economic advantage http://t.co/HdctRlXnJ1
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) October 7, 2013
As the CBC reports Monday:
The report said the metadata of phone calls and emails from and to the Brazilian ministry were targeted by the Communications Security Establishment Canada, or CSEC, to map the ministry's communications, using a software program called Olympia. It didn't indicate whether emails were read or phone calls were listened to.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper would neither confirm nor deny the allegations when asked to respond to the report late Sunday night.
The "CSEC does not comment on its specific foreign intelligence activities or capabilities," said Harper's communications director Jason MacDonald.
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Brazilian Mines and Energy Minister Edison Lobao told Globo that "Canada has interests in Brazil, above all in the mining sector. I can't say if the spying served corporate interests or other groups."
American journalist Glenn Greenwald, based in Rio de Janeiro, worked with Globo on its report. Greenwald broke the first stories about the NSA's global spy program focusing on Internet traffic and phone calls.
And the Globe and Mail adds:
The impact for Canada of these revelations could be [...] grave: they come at a time when Brazil has become a top destination for Canadian exports, when a stream of delegations from the oil and gas industries are making pilgrimages to Rio de Janeiro to try to get a piece of the booming offshore oil industry, and when the Canadian government is eager to burnish ties with Brasilia. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird visited Brazil in August, and spoke repeatedly about the country as a critical partner for Canadian business.
American lawmakers have introduced several bills that aim to rein in the U.S. National Security Agency's domestic surveillance programs.
Throughout all this, Canada’s electronic eavesdropping agency has kept a relatively low profile, never before emerging as the central figure in any Snowden-leaked spying program. Although it has existed since the Second World War, CSEC has rarely discussed any of its operations in public.
CSEC has a $350-million budget and 2,000 employees. By law, it has three mandates – to safeguard Canadian government communications and computers from foreign hackers, to help other federal security agencies where legally possible, and to gather “foreign intelligence.”
The federal government is building a new $1-billion headquarters for CSEC on the outskirts of Ottawa.