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5 Nov, 2013 03:40

Brazil admits spying on Russian, Iranian diplomats

Brazil's government has confirmed it spied on a number of targets, including representatives from Russia, Iran and the US. The confession came after recent reports on unsophisticated surveillance methods used by Brazil’s intelligence agency a decade ago.
Brazil admits spying on Russian, Iranian diplomats

The country’s Institutional Security Cabinet, tasked with Brazilian intelligence activities, said in a statement released Monday that in 2003-04 it carried out spying activities “in absolute compliance” with the law on diplomatic premises in Brazil.

The office of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff responded to the report by saying that the surveillance in question comprised of "counter-intelligence operations."

"The operations in question [took place] in accordance with Brazilian legislation pertaining to the protection of the national interest,”
Rousseff’s office said.

The cabinet also said that the “leak of classified reports is a crime and that those responsible will be prosecuted according to the law.” Authorities said they could not confirm the authenticity of the documents used in the report, as the newspaper did not provide them.

The acknowledgement follows a Folha de São Paulo newspaper report outlining Brazilian Intelligence Agency (ABIN) tactics of spying on diplomats from Russia and Iran. Most of the surveillance was carried out using simple techniques such as monitoring the target on foot and by car, as well as photographing them.

The ABIN documents used in the report provide details of 10 covert operations in progress between 2003 and 2004 and show that even countries which Brazil sought to approach in recent years - such as Russia and Iran - were targets of ABIN.

The publication also interviewed military intelligence agents, former employees, and former directors of ABIN to confirm the accuracy of the content of the documents obtained.

Among the Russian diplomats that were monitored include former Consul General of the Russian Federation in Rio de Janeiro, Anatoly Kashuba, and representatives of Rosoboronexport who were involved in negotiations of military equipment. The Honorary Consul of the Russian Federation in Porto Alegre, Fernando Sampaio, was also monitored by the country’s intelligence service. Sampaio is a Brazilian national.

Image from www.abin.gov.br

“It’s kind of basic stuff when you think about it,” said Sampaio, according to a Brazilian newspaper report which was based on an ABIN document.

“Governments spy, what a surprise,”
he said. “I’ve long suspected that my phone line was tapped, and it probably still is,” he added.

The operations which the newspaper report refer to happened during the administration of former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

In 2003, during operation “Miucha,” ABIN followed the three Russian diplomats as the country’s intelligence suspected Russia of espionage activities in Brazil.

In operation “Shah,” ABIN followed similar surveillance tactics to spy on then-Iranian Ambassador to Cuba Seyed Davood Monfared Mohseni Salehi during his 2004 visit to Brazil. Agents asked to review the information said the Iranians were most likely monitored at the request of another country’s intelligence service.

The publication also revealed that the Brazilian government monitored the embassy of Iraq after the US-led invasion in 2003. ABIN was also mobilized to follow many Iraqi diplomats that sought refuge in Brazil.

Brazil's intelligence service also monitored a facility rented by the US embassy in Brasilia, as ABIN concluded that the offices held "communications equipment."

"Functioning daily with the doors closed and the lights turned off, and with nobody in the locale,"
is how the report described the rented property. "The office is sporadically visited by someone from the embassy.”

Last week, Brazil joined Germany to urge the United Nations General Assembly to adopt a resolution guaranteeing the right to privacy under international law. The draft resolution says that illegal surveillance "constitutes a highly intrusive act that violates the right to privacy and freedom of expression and may threaten the foundations of a democratic society."

The revelation surfaced amid the ongoing battle between Rousseff and the White House over NSA spy programs which targeted the Brazilian president’s personal communications as well as the country’s key economic sectors, as thousands of documents leaked by Edward Snowden revealed.