The NSA’s Mass and Indiscriminate Spying on Brazilians

As it does in many non-adversarial countries, the surveillance agency is bulk collecting the communications of millions of citizens of Brazil

I’ve written an article on NSA surveillance for the front page of the Sunday edition of O Globo, the large Brazilian newspaper based in Rio de Janeiro. The article is headlined (translated) “US spied on millions of emails and calls of Brazilians”, and I co-wrote it with Globo reporters Roberto Kaz and Jose Casado.

The rough translation of the article into English is here. The main page of Globo’s website lists related NSAstories: here.

As the headline suggests, the crux of the main article details how the NSA has, for years, systematically tapped into the Brazilian telecommunication network and indiscriminately intercepted, collected and stored the email and telephone records of millions of Brazilians.

The story follows an article in Der Spiegel last week, written by Laura Poitras and reporters from that paper, detailing the NSA’s mass and indiscriminate collection of the electronic communications of millions of Germans.

There are many more populations of non-adversarial countries which have been subjected to the same type of mass surveillance net by the NSA: indeed, the list of those which haven’t been are shorter than those which have.

The claim that any other nation is engaging in anything remotely approaching indiscriminate worldwide surveillance of this sort is baseless.

As those two articles detail, all of this bulk, indiscriminate surveillance aimed at populations of friendly foreign nations is part of the NSA’s “FAIRVIEW” program. Under that program, the NSA partners with a large US telecommunications company, the identity of which is currently unknown, and that US company then partners with telecoms in the foreign countries.

Those partnerships allow the US company access to those countries’ telecommunications systems, and that access is then exploited to direct traffic to the NSA’s repositories. Both articles are based on top secret documents provided by Edward Snowden; O Globo published several of them.

The vast majority of the GuardianUS’s revelations thus far have concerned NSA domestic spying: the bulk collection of telephone records, the PRISM programObama’s presidential directive that authorizes domestic use of cyber-operations, the Boundless Informant data detailing billions of records collected from US systems, the serial falsehoods publicly voiced by top Obama officials about the NSA’s surveillance schemes, and most recently, the bulk collection of email and internet metadata records for Americans.

Future stories in the GuardianUS will largely continue to focus on the NSA’s domestic spying.

But contrary to what some want to suggest, the privacy rights of Americans aren’t the only ones that matter. That the US government – in complete secrecy – is constructing a ubiquitous spying apparatus aimed not only at its own citizens, but all of the world’s citizens, has profound consequences.

It erodes, if not eliminates, the ability to use the internet with any remnant of privacy or personal security. It vests the US government with boundless power over those to whom it has no accountability.

It permits allies of the US – including aggressively oppressive ones – to benefit from indiscriminate spying on their citizens’ communications. It radically alters the balance of power between the US and ordinary citizens of the world.

And it sends an unmistakable signal to the world that while the US very minimally values the privacy rights of Americans, it assigns zero value to the privacy of everyone else on the planet.

This development – the construction of a worldwide, ubiquitous electronic surveillance apparatus – is self-evidently newsworthy, extreme, and dangerous.

It deserves transparency.

People around the world have no idea that all of their telephonic and internet communications are being collected, stored and analyzed by a distant government.

But that’s exactly what is happening, in secrecy and with virtually no accountability.

And it is inexorably growing, all in the dark. At the very least, it merits public understanding and debate. That is now possible thanks solely to these disclosures.

The Guardian’s reporting

One brief note on the Guardian is merited here: I’ve been continuously amazed by how intrepid, fearless and committed the Guardian’s editors have been in reporting these NSA stories as effectively and aggressively as possible.

They have never flinched in reporting these stories, have spared no expense in pursuing them, have refused to allow vague and baseless government assertions to suppress any of the newsworthy revelations, have devoted extraordinary resources to ensure accuracy and potency, and have generally been animated by exactly the kind of adversarial journalistic ethos that has been all too lacking over the last decade or so (see this Atlantic article from yesterday highlighting the role played by the Guardian US’s editor-in-chief, Janine Gibson).

I don’t need to say any of this, but do so only because it’s so true and impressive: they deserve a lot of credit for the impact these stories have had. To underscore that: because we’re currently working on so many articles involving NSA domestic spying, it would have been weeks, at least, before we would have been able to publish this story about indiscriminate NSA surveillance of Brazilians.

Rather than sit on such a newsworthy story – especially at a time when Latin America, for several reasons, is so focused on these revelations – they were enthused about my partnering with O Globo, where it could produce the most impact.

In other words, they sacrificed short-term competitive advantage for the sake of the story by encouraging me to write this story with O Globo. I don’t think many media outlets would have made that choice, but that’s the kind of journalistic virtue that has driven the paper’s editors from the start of this story.

This has been a Guardian story from the start and will continue to be. Snowden came to us before coming to any other media outlet, and I’ll continue to write virtually all NSA stories right in this very space.

But the O Globo story will resonate greatly in Brazil and more broadly in Latin America, where most people had no idea that their electronic communications were being collected in bulk by this highly secretive US agency.

For more on how the Guardian’s editors have overseen the reporting of the NSA stories, see this informative interview on the Charlie Rose Show from last week with Gibson and Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger:


Glenn Greenwald, The




A related article: Translation of Greenwald’s Brazil article



The NSA’s mass and indiscriminate spying on Brazilians
As it does in many non-adversarial countries, the surveillance agency is bulk collecting the communications of millions of citizens of Brazil
Country appears as the monitoring target and data is monitored as in Latin America
Glenn Greenwald, Roberto Kaz e Jos Casado; Published: 6/07/13
The former coach of the CIA Edward Snowden, who denounced a giant spying scheme led by the National Security Agency U.S. HANDOUT / REUTERS/9-6-2013
RIO – In the last decade, people residing or in transit in Brazil, as well as companies operating in the country, have become targets of espionage National Security Agency of the United States (National Security Agency – NSA, its acronym in English). There are no precise figures, but last January Brazil was just behind the United States, which had 2.3 billion phone calls and messages spied.
It’s showing documents to which O GLOBO had access. They were collected by Edward Joseph Snowden, technical computing networks in the past four years he worked in the NSA program from about 54 000 employees of private companies subcontracted – such as Booz Allen Hamilton and the Dell Corporation.
Last month, the American North Carolina decided to denounce the surveillance operations conducted by NSA communications inside and outside the United States. Snowden became responsible for one of the biggest leak of secrets in American history, which affected the credibility of the Obama administration.
The NSA documents are eloquent. Brazil, with extensive public and private networks scanned, operated by large telecommunications companies and internet, is highlighted on maps of the U.S. agency focus primarily on voice traffic and data (origin and destination), along with nations such as China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan. It is uncertain how many people and companies spied in Brazil. But there is evidence that the volume of data captured by the filtering system in the local telephone networks and the Internet is constant and large scale.
Founded 61 years ago, the Cold War, the NSA is tasked with spying on communications from other countries, deciphering codes government. Dedicated also to develop encryption systems for the government.
The agency has undergone transformations was George W. Bush, Bush, especially after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001. Became a leader in Intelligence technology applied in radar and satellite data collection systems in telecommunications, the Internet public and private digital networks.
The Obama administration has chosen to enforce it. Multiplied his budget, which is secret as 14 other U.S. spy agencies. Together, they spent $ 75 billion last year, estimates the Federation of American Scientists, a nongovernmental organization specializing in safety issues.
Another program broadens action
The NSA has 35,200 employees, according to documents. They also report that the agency maintains “strategic partnerships” to “support missions” with more than 80 of the “largest global corporations” (in the sectors of telecommunications, internet providers, network infrastructure, equipment, operating systems and applications, among others) .
To facilitate global action, the agency has partnerships with major U.S. Internet companies. In the last 6 June, the newspaper “The Guardian” reported that the Prism software allows the NSA access to emails, chatting and voice calls from customers of companies like Facebook, Google, Microsoft, and YouTube.
However, this program does not allow the agency access to the entire universe of communications. Large volumes of traffic calls and internet data occur outside the scope of the NSA and its partners in the use of Prism. To extend their reach, and build global espionage system you want, the agency has developed other programs with corporate partners able to provide you with access to international communications.
One is Fairview, which enabled the collection of data in communications networks worldwide. It is used by the NSA, according to the description in the document to which O GLOBO had access, in partnership with a major U.S. phone company. She, in turn, maintains business relationships with other telecommunications services in Brazil and worldwide. As a result of its relations with non-US companies, the U.S. operator has access to the local communications networks, including Brazilian.
Ie, through a corporate alliance, the NSA just having access to communication systems outside U.S. borders. The paper describes the system as follows: “The partners operate in the U.S., but do not have access to information passing in networks of a nation, and for corporate relationships, provide exclusive access to the other [telecommunications companies and service providers internet]. “
Telecommunications companies in Brazil have this partnership that gives access to the American company. What is not clear is what the American company that has been used by the NSA as a sort of “bridge”. It is also unclear whether the Brazilian companies are aware of how their partnership with the U.S. company is being used.
It is true that the NSA uses the Fairview program to directly access the Brazilian telecommunications system. And it is this access that allows you to collect detailed records of telephone calls and emails of millions of people, businesses and institutions.
To eavesdrop on communications of a resident or a firm established in the United States, the NSA need judicial authorization issued by a special court (the Court Foreign Intelligence Surveillance), composed of 11 judges who meet in secret. It was in this instance, for example, that the agency was authorized for 90 days access to phone records of almost 100 million users of Verizon, the largest telephone company in the country. There was an extension of the application to all American carriers – with permanent renewal.
Outside U.S. borders, the game is different. Monitoring people, companies and foreign institutions is NSA’s mission, as defined in Presidential Order (number 12333) for three decades.
In practice, political borders and legal systems by the end relativized collection, processing, storage and distribution of information. Applied are the same in both the U.S. and the rest of the world.
All kinds of information stored
Since 2008, for example, the government monitors with judicial authorization browsing habits on the Internet within the American territory. Therefore, successfully exhibited an argument in court especially: the study of the online routine of “targets” would provide domestic surveillance privileged over practice online everyday foreigners. Thus, a person or company “of interest” resident in Brazil can have all your calls and electronic mail – sent or received – under constant surveillance. The agency holds all sorts of records (dialed number, trunk and extension used, duration, date, time, location, address of sender and recipient, as well as IP addresses – as well as websites visited).  And does the same with whoever is on the other end of the line, or another computer screen.
Starts there monitoring the progressive relationship network of each telephone caller or recipient of electronic mail (e-mail, fax, SMS, videos, podcasts, etc..). Interference is always noticeable: “Serve in Silence” – explains the inscription on a marble plaque displayed at the headquarters of the NSA in Washington.
Spying this level, and on a global scale, it was only a suspicion until last month, when they began to be disseminated thousands of internal documents collected by Snowden agency within the NSA. Since then, coexists with the reaffirmation of certainties. One is the end of the era of privacy at any time and anywhere. Especially in countries like Brazil, where the “clip” has even been state policy, the military dictatorship.

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Reply