TV Globo’s Fantastico obtains exclusive access to another document leaked by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden
The Plaza of Ministries. The heart of power in Brazil. One of these buildings houses the Ministry of Mines and Energy. On the ground floor, one room is special. Its doors open only to a select few, identified by their thumbprints.
The huge noise in the small room comes from the air conditioning, used to preserve the machines. All of the ministry’s communications go through them – phone calls, e-mail, internet.
They store files with all data on the country’s energy and mineral resources. The room, called The Safe, has steel walls and is disaster-proof. According to the IT specialist, not even a fire or a collapse of the building would harm The Safe. And the protection is not just physical. This is the most secure network on the Plaza of Ministries. It has the same kind of security used by banks, for example. And yet it has been mapped by spies in surprising detail.
The Ministry of Mines and Energy has been targeted by American and Canadian spies.
Fantastico obtained exclusive access to another document leaked by former NSA intelligence analyst Edward Snowden, now exiled in Russia. This document was only identified last week. It was among thousands delivered by Snowden in Hong Kong last June to American journalist Glenn Greenwald, co-author of this story with TV Globo Reporter Sonia Bridi.
Greenwald explains that there are thousands of documents, and it takes time to read, to understand and to make the connections between them.
Over the last ten days, Bridi and Greenwald analyzed and checked the documents with help from specialists in data protection. One presentation showcases the tools employed by the Communications Security Establishment Canada – CSEC.
The target is the Ministry of Mines and Energy of Brazil. This presentation was shown last June at a yearly meeting of analysts from intelligence agencies from five countries. The group is called Five Eyes – the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Edward Snowden was present at the conference.
According to Greenwald, the documents are shared so that all are aware of what the others are doing. A computer program called Olympia shows step-b-step how all the ministry’s telephone and computer communications – including e-mails – were mapped.
The caption on one of the slides reveals the aim of the Canadian agency:
“Discover contacts of my target” – the Ministry of Mines and Energy of Brazil.
The result of this monitoring is a detailed map of the Ministry’s communications during a period not specified in the document.
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.
Via the internet, the Canadian agency accessed communications between the Ministry’s computers and computers in countries from the Middle East, in South Africa, and in Canada itself.
Information security expert Paulo Pagliusi says He was astonished by the power of these tools. He was specially surprised 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 tool identified cell phone numbers, chip registry and even make and model of the cell phones.
We found out one of them is used by the International Department of the Ministry.
Also by phone, we found another user: Paulo Cordeiro, the former Ambassador of Brazil in Canada, currently posted in the Middle East Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Contacted by Fantastico, He declined to comment.
On Friday in Brasilia, the Minister of Mines and Energy, Edison Lobão, considered the issue a very serious one. “This is a grave fact which needs to be condemned. President Dilma Rousseff already has done so strongly at the United Nations,” said Lobão.
In her speech last month at the U.N. General Assembly, President Rousseff declared, “Telecommunication and information technologies cannot become a new battlefield between States.”
President Rousseff herself and Petrobras, the oil company associated with the Ministry, have also been targeted by American spies, as Fantastico has shown exclusively. And both may have been monitored indirectly by accessing the Ministry’s servers.
These servers use private encryption, which means they are protected by a series of codes. One of the servers, for instance, is used to contact the National Oil Agency, Patrobras, Eletrobras, the National Department of Mineral Production and even the President of the Republic. These are State conversations, government strategies which no one should be able to eavesdrop.
Minister Lobão explains that the ministry often contacts different authorities, including the President, by videoconference. “It’s regrettable that all of this is being exposed to espionage.”
Three of the world’s four largest mining companies are based in Canada.
Minister Lobão claims Canada has interests in Brazil, and particularly in the mining sector. “Several Canadian companies have shown interest in our country. Whether that means the aim of this espionage is to boost business for certain groups, I can’t say.”
The main data on Brazil’s mineral reserves is public, and spying is not required to access it.
But the Ministry’s system holds strategic information. Besides Petrobras, the Ministry of Mines and Energy’s network is connected to Eletrobras; the energy research company; the National Electric Energy Agency, which regulates bids for power plant contracts; and the National Oil Agency, in charge of auctions for exploration of the pre-salt layer.
Former Eletrobras President Pinguelli Rosa considers that this information can give a competitive advantage to companies bidding at these auctions. “Whoever knows what will happen beforehand can form partnerships, or estimate the values needed to win the auction and act accordingly. This is not a trifle, it’s a game of billions of dollars.”
Greenwald concludes that the aim of this espionage, which targets a specific ministry of one country, is clearly economic. “That’s what Snowden told me in the interview three months ago in Hong Kong.”
There is no indication in the documents that the content of these communications has been accessed – only who spoke to whom, when, where, and how.
But the author of the presentation makes the next steps very clear: among the actions suggested is a joint operation with a section of the American NSA, TAO, which is the special cyberspy taskforce, for an invasion known as “Man on the Side”.
All incoming and outgoing communications in the network can be copied, but not altered.
It’s like working on a computer with someone looking over your shoulder.
For Minister Lobão, Brazil is obviously the target of an international system of surveillance.
“What kind of damages are we risking, besides the attack on our sovereignty and individual rights? Business issues, for instance. This has not been evaluated yet, and may only surface in the long run.”
The Embassy of Canada in Brasilia declared it does not comment on intelligence and security issues.
The Communications Security Establishment issued a statement declaring that the CSE does not comment on foreign signals intelligence activities.
In another statement, the National Security Agency of the United States declared: “We are not going to comment publicly on every specific alleged intelligence activity, and as a matter of policy we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations. As the President said in his speech at the UN General Assembly, we’ve begun to review the way that we gather intelligence, so that we properly balance the legitimate security concerns of our citizens and allies with the privacy concerns that all people share.”
TV Globo – Fantástico
Edição do dia 06/10/2013
Find this story at 6 October 2013
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