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9 Sep, 2013 05:00

No economic espionage? NSA docs show US spied on Brazil oil giant Petrobras

No economic espionage? NSA docs show US spied on Brazil oil giant Petrobras

Despite earlier US assurances that its Department of Defense does not “engage in economic espionage in any domain,” a new report suggests that the intelligence agency NSA spied on Brazilian state-run oil giant Petrobras.

Brazil's biggest television network Globo TV reported that the information about the NSA spying on Petroleo Brasileiro SA came from Glenn Greenwald, the American journalist who first published secrets leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Globo TV aired slides from an NSA presentation from 2012 that revealed the agency’s ability to gain access to private networks of companies such as Petrobras and Google Inc.

One slide specified an ‘economic’ motive for spying, along with diplomatic and political reasons.

This seems to contradict a statement made by an NSA spokesman to the Washington Post on August 30, which said that the US Department of Defense “does not engage in economic espionage in any domain, including cyber.”

An official from the NSA told Globo that the agency gathers economic information not to steal secrets, but to watch for financial instability.

Petrobras is known to have discovered some of the world's biggest offshore oil reserves in recent years.

Some of the new reserves are estimated to be around as 100 billion barrels of oil, according to Rio de Janeiro State University.

None of the leaked slides went into the reasons behind the NSA spying on the Brazilian firm.

The US spy agency then reportedly shared the gathered information with the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

The new report about US spying on Brazil could intensify the already existing tensions between Brazil and US.

The relationship between the two countries became tense as Globo reported about allegations that NSA has intercepted private communications of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff and her Mexican counterpart Enrique Pena Nieto.

Brazil responded by canceling preparations for the presidential visit to the United States and beginning a probe into telecommunications companies to see if they illegally shared data with the NSA. Also, Brazil has asked for a formal apology.

During the G20 summit US tried to address the issue by US President Barack Obama pledging to work with Brazil and Mexico to address their concerns over US spying revealed in recent NSA leaks. 

On Monday President Rousseff spoke with the president of Petrobras, Graça Foster, as well as the president of the country's National Petroleum Agency, Magda Chambriard. Petrobras is also set to release a statement on the matter, reports O Globo.

In her statement the Brazilian head of state said that "it is evident that the reason for the attempted espionage is not security or combating terrorism, but economic and strategic interests" adding that Petrobras represented "no threat to the security of any country. Rather, it represents one of the greatest assets of the world's oil and a heritage of the Brazilian people."

Rousseff concluded her remarks on Monday by saying that the Brazilian state would take "all measures to protect the country , the government and its companies ."