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Brazilian spying hypocrisy

Brazilian spying hypocrisy

I think the Brazilian President is not so much upset that we spy, but that we spy better than her spies spy.

I have warned repeatedly that the NSA disclosures by Edward Snowden via Glenn Greenwald and others serve a dual purpose.

Part is to expose genuine breaches of privacy about which we should be concerned; part is to disrupt U.S. foreign intelligence activities and relations with other countries.  The former provides excellent cover for the latter.

The leaks and disclosures are all one sided — as if other countries don’t spy on the U.S. and their own citizens. It would be nice to see “whistleblowers” defecting from the Chinese and Russian intelligence agencies spilling their secrets to newspapers, but they know better for the safety of themselves and their families.

The latest outrage is exhibited by the Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff, who canceled a state dinner in her honor in Washington, D.C., because of revelations by Glenn Greenwald that the NSA spies on her, Brazil, and the Brazilian state oil company.

The hyprocrisy is dripping. The Brazilian intelligence agencies are quite expansive and have a long history (post-junta) of spying abuses:

  • Spy Agency In Brazil Is Accused Of Abuses (2000): “The director of the Brazilian Intelligence Agency, Col. Ariel Rocha de Cunto, has been dismissed. News reports last month that his agents were spying on an opposition governor, reporters, a prosecutor and even the president’s son were quickly followed by charges that at least two of his senior aides supervised the torture of dissidents during the military dictatorship that ruled the country from 1964 to 1985.In a sworn deposition to federal prosecutors last week after he stepped down, Colonel de Cunto identified some of the many entities that his agency has had under surveillance. Among those were the environmental group Greenpeace, the human rights organization Americas Watch, the Monsanto chemical company and the religious sect led by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.”
  • Brazil’s spy chiefs suspended in bugging scandal (2008): “The chiefs of Brazil’s spy agency have been suspended and a probe launched into allegations the agency eavesdropped on telephone conversations by senior judicial, legislative and government officials.”

There also is a new program to spy on internet users — my guess is that they are not going to relying on simple social media aggregators, they don’t need a new espionage program to do that:

  • Brazil Intelligence Agency Monitors Social Networks To Thwart Unrest (2013): “The Brazilian Intelligence Agency (ABIN) began to monitor social networking sites on 700 subjects, defined by the agency, in order to keep the government informed about demonstrations and organized movements in the country. Abin is not the first intelligence agency in the world to create a system of monitoring Internet networks. According to information from Brazilian media, the initiative came after the security agencies of the country failed to alert President Dilma Rousseff about the protests that resulted in violent scenes around Brazil, including the invasion of Congress.”
  • Brazilian government launches operation to monitor the web (2013): “As anti-government protests continue in Brazil – even after the bus fare reductions announced in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro this week – the Brazilian government has rushed to put together an operation to monitor information about upcoming demos across the social networks.The Brazilian Intelligence Agency (Abin) has allocated resource to analyze information posted on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp about upcoming protests on a daily basis….According to the newspaper, the temperature and scale of the protests will be measured through a system called Mosaic, which can follow up to 700 themes and can also find out info such as possible involvement of political parties in the demos, as well as supposed financing from those interested in creating havoc.How exactly this data is being monitored is the question. It seems impossible to me that the government would be able to go through data generated by applications such as WhatsApp without crossing the boundaries of the law. Since information from tools such as Whatsapp don’t direct send messages across carrier’s SMS networks, it is more difficult to know what is being said.”

I know, I know, two wrongs don’t make a right.  But when we know the extent of Brazilian spying, perhaps we can put the outrage of the Brazilian President in context.

I think the Brazilian President is not so much upset that we spy, but that we spy better than her spies spy.

Another result of the Snowden-inspired outrage? Brazil joins Iran and other countries trying to find a way around a globally integrated internet, which if it develops will have a profoundly negative impact on freedom around the world.

Update:  Reader, commenter and former U.S. diplomat The Diplomad previously wrote on his blog:

As I noted about the French, the Brazilians, especially, should keep quiet about espionage. They have an active intel organization which collects on foreigners and Brazilians in touch with foreigners. Whenever I was in Brazil, we always assumed our phones were tapped and, on occasion, we were being followed.

Well, if that’s true, then the Brazilian intelligence agencies probably have an extensive file on Greenwald and his Brazilian partner, who has been involved as a courier of the stolen NSA information.

Related Post: Beware Glenn Greenwald bearing leaks


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If Brazil spies more poorly than we do, they must spy quite poorly.

I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago at

In my former life I had experience wit h the Brazilian intel services and they are quite active.

We’re a country based on the Rule of Law. And, high among these rules are the safety you should feel in your own home. Your papers won’t be taken to build a case against you.

And, if we don’t function as a country with respect for the Rules of Law, we’re watching what happens when certain people feel entitled to use force (and spying is a form of force), against everybody! American didn’t fight and die for this.

Why are lawyers so bad, now? Well they’ve been licensed to appear in courtrooms as defenders of the People. Which could be a line in a comedy show, these days.

Sure. We were told Obama has a “Constitutional Law Degree.” It’s wrapped, for him, in a roll of toilet paper.

The republicans still think they’ll substitute what we’ve lost for a “force” they’ll call “Christianity.” And, they’ll replace government bodies with priests. Individuals. No longer beholden to the Rule of Law.

Our loss. But absolutely no one’s gain.

Squeezing the “toothpaste tube” of “secrets,” Glenn Greenwald just pushes out a little bit every few days. Enough to absorb. Enough to know there’s more “secrets” in the tube. And, the tiny squeezes will take a long time to tell.

We know by now we’ve lost our country to mad men. So, go ahead, and make fun of Brazil.

You’ll notice it’s safer for journalists to live in Brazil. And, in East Germany’s Berlin, because there the papers are safe. There’s no prior restraint on your work product. And, the F.B.I. can’t come in and walk off with your hard drives.

Language from Congress has gotten positively Orwellian. When we’re told there’s a Patriot Act, we can see how freedoms flew out the window.

But you can earn great pay if you can come up with these word transfers.

I especially love Dianne Feinstink’s attempt to re-write out First Amendment, where the Deptartment of Justice will soon be selling you a license to be a “journalist.” Otherwise you’ll go straight to jail. In Feinstink’s hands the “shield” is about to drop.

And, you want to make fun of Dilmert (sp?) of Brazil?

I don’t care about spy vs. spy.
I care about spy vs. me.

Is not hypocrisy and spin the very meat and drink of diplomacy, since forever? Thucydides’ dueling ambassadors to Athens schtick was already weary when he wrote it.

The elevation of hypocrisy to the summum malum has always struck me as calculated to maximize the power of those who buy ink in tankcars or bandwidth in terabaud. So I say, “so what?”.

PersonFromPorlock | September 18, 2013 at 3:30 pm

“I have warned repeatedly that the NSA disclosures by Edward Snowden via Glenn Greenwald and others serve a dual purpose.”

A dual effect, yes: but “dual purpose” speaks to Snowden and Greenwald’s motivation, which I doubt Professor Jacobsen has any special knowledge of.

    Uh, Prof. J is a LAW professor. Ergo, he thinks legally, which means he deduces from evidence. He DEDUCED a purpose that conforms with the known facts.

    You, on the other hand, are one of those guys who likes to criticize others. Why? For the same reason a dog licks itself – because it can.