The ramifications of the NSA’s now-exposed global surveillance programs are far from over. Much to the disappointment of official Washington, Brasilia has yet to calm down after discovering that almost nothing that is said or communicated electronically in Brazil is exempt from the NSA’s gigantic prying ears. Brazil’s Epoca newspaper, after new revelations aired on Fantastico, a popular TV program, interviewed Communications Minister Paulo Bernardo about the still-unfolding scandal at the Brazil Ministry of Communications – ironically only after everyone present powered down their cell phones to prevent spying.
This is an excerpt from Epoca’s interview with Communications Minister Paulo Bernardo:
During an hour-long conversation, in a conference room on the eighth floor of the Ministry of Communications building, no cell phones were turned on. That fact slightly reduced the chance that the interview, granted to Época by Communications Minister Paulo Bernardo, was being spied upon. Bernardo finds it “discouraging” for international diplomacy that spy agencies are an auxiliary front in negotiations. According to him, keeping some data secret is part of the diplomatic game. “By spying on a partner’s camp, a camp with whom you’re negotiating, one could manipulate talks into a fraud,” Paulo Bernardo said.
ÉPOCA: Época has revealed that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA in English) spied on eight members of the U.N. Security Council during talks about sanctions against Iran in 2010. Is Brazil capable of defending itself from invasions like this?
PAULO BERNARDO: We are facing a scandal of global proportions. This episode you revealed is discouraging for international diplomacy. I realize that in a diplomatic negotiation, no one is obliged to say everything they know. That’s part of the game. By spying on a partner’s camp, a camp with whom you’re negotiating, one could manipulate talks into a fraud. If one carries out surveillance for such purposes, you probably do so in all forums, like the WTO (World Trade Organization) or any other gathering. We are trying to understand all the dimensions of the problem. And, more than that, I think global public opinion, in Europe and even the United States, questions these methods, because their scope goes far beyond what any citizen thinks is a reasonable mandate on the part of their government.
ÉPOCA: The American government claims that it only collects general information, know as metadata. But in a document obtained by Época, the then-U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice refers to the thinking of America’s Security Council partners. Do you think they got all that just from metadata?
PAULO BERNARDO: I think the case reported by Época has little or to do with metadata. If you want to watch a delegation, will you be monitoring if one official phones another? One need not monitor this. All the evidence indicates that they listened to conversations.
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