BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — Brazil on Monday demanded clarifications from the Canadian government about allegations that its spies targeted Brazil’s Mines and Energy Ministry, in what Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said appears to be an act of industrial espionage.
Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo summoned the Canadian ambassador in the capital, Brasilia, to “transmit the indignation of the Brazilian government and demand explanations,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement that followed the revelations, aired Sunday night on Brazil’s Globo network.
The report said the metadata of phone calls and emails from and to the ministry were targeted by Canada’s Communications Security Establishment to map the ministry’s communications. It didn’t indicate if emails were read or phone calls listened to.
The report was based on documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and was the latest showing that Latin America’s biggest nation has been a target for United States, British and now Canadian spy agencies.
During Monday’s meeting, Figueiredo expressed “the government’s repudiation of this serious and unacceptable violation of national sovereignty and the rights of people and companies,” the Foreign Ministry statement said.
A spokeswoman for Canada’s Communications Security Establishment said the “CSE does not comment on foreign intelligence gathering activities.” A spokeswoman for the Canadian Defense Department also declined comment.
Ray Boisvert, a former high-ranking member of Canada’s spy service and the deputy director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service until last year, said he thinks the documents might have been a case of Canada using Brazil as part of a pretend war game scenario and not actual espionage. He added that he didn’t think there was industrial spying going on because “we’re all too busy chasing things that could kill people, frankly.”
Boisvert said from the reports there’s no indication that it’s about real targeting.
“It’s a hypothetical thing, like ‘Could we do something?’ Quite often it’s an exercise and they’ll use any country just to test the theories,” he said.
In comments Monday on Twitter, Rousseff said industrial espionage appears to be behind the alleged spying. Canadian companies have large mining interest across the globe, including in Brazil.
In her Twitter comments, which the president’s office confirmed were authentic, Rousseff also instructed Mines Minister Edison Lobao to beef up the ministry’s data protection systems.
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.
Globo previously reported that the communications of Rousseff herself, and also state-run oil company Petrobras, were targeted by NSA spying.
Earlier, Greenwald wrote articles in the O Globo newspaper saying that the NSA was gathering metadata on billions of emails, phone calls and other Internet data flowing through Brazil, an important transit point for global communications.
The fallout over the spy programs led Rousseff last month to cancel a planned visit to the U.S., where she was to be the guest of honor for a state dinner.
Rousseff last month spoke at the United Nations General Assembly and called for international regulations on data privacy and limiting espionage programs targeting the Internet.
Associated Press writer Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.