US accused of spying on Brazil, Mexico leaders

Officials urge new protections against snooping

Brazil’s Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo (left), and Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardoso called the alleged spying an unacceptable violation.
Brazil’s Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo (left), and Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardoso called the alleged spying an unacceptable violation.

RIO DE JANEIRO — The Brazilian government condemned a US spy program that reportedly targeted the nation’s leader, labeled it an ‘‘unacceptable invasion’’ of sovereignty, and called Monday for international regulations to protect citizens and governments alike from cyber espionage.

A report that aired Sunday night on Globo TV cited 2012 documents from NSA leaker Edward Snowden that indicated the United States intercepted President Dilma Rousseff’s e-mails and telephone calls, along with those of Mexico’s president, Enrique Pena Nieto.

Pena Nieto’s communications were being monitored even before he was elected as president in July 2012. Mexico’s government said Monday that it had expressed its concerns to the US ambassador and directly to the Obama administration.


In a sign that fallout over the spy program is spreading, the newspaper Folha de S.Paulo reported that Rousseff is considering canceling her October trip to the United States, where she has been scheduled to be honored with a state dinner. Folha cited unidentified Rousseff aides. The president’s office declined to comment.

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The Brazilian Foreign Ministry called in US Ambassador Thomas Shannon and told him Brazil expects the White House to provide a prompt written explanation over the espionage allegations.

Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo said, ‘‘We’re going to talk with our partners, including developed and developing nations, to evaluate how they protect themselves and to see what joint measures could be taken in the face of this grave situation.’’

He added that ‘‘there has to be international regulations that prohibit citizens and governments alike from being exposed to interceptions, violations of privacy, and cyberattacks.’’

Justice Minister Eduardo Cardozo said at a joint news conference with Figueiredo that ‘‘from our point of view, this represents an unacceptable violation of Brazilian sovereignty.’’


‘‘This type of practice is incompatible with the confidence necessary for a strategic partnership between two nations,’’ Cardozo said.

Earlier, Senator Ricardo Ferraco, head of the Brazilian Senate’s foreign relations committee, said lawmakers already had decided to formally investigate the US program’s focus on Brazil because of earlier disclosures that the country was a top target of the NSA spying in the region. He said the inquiry would likely start this week.

‘‘I feel a mixture of amazement and indignation. It seems like there are no limits. When the phone of the president of the republic is monitored, it’s hard to imagine what else might be happening,’’ Ferraco told reporters in Brasilia. ‘‘It’s unacceptable that in a country like ours, where there is absolutely no climate of terrorism, that there is this type of spying.’’

The “Fantastico’’ news program on Sunday interviewed US journalist Glenn Greenwald, who lives in Rio de Janeiro and first broke the story about the NSA program in Britain’s Guardian newspaper after receiving tens of thousands of documents from Snowden. Greenwald said in the interview that a document dated June 2012 shows that Pena Nieto’s e-mails were being read.

The date on the Pena Nieto document was a month before he was elected president. The document indicated who Pena Nieto would like to name to some government posts, among other information. It is not clear if the spying is continuing.


As for Brazil’s leader, the NSA document ‘‘doesn’t include any of Dilma’s specific intercepted messages, the way it does for Nieto,’’ Greenwald said in an e-mail. ‘‘But it is clear in several ways that her communications were intercepted, including the use of DNI Presenter, which is a program used by NSA to open and read e-mails and online chats.’’

The US targeting mapped out the aides with whom Rousseff communicated and tracked patterns of how those aides communicated with one another and also with third parties, according to the document.

In July, Greenwald co-wrote articles in the O Globo newspaper that said documents leaked by Snowden indicate Brazil was the largest target in Latin America for the NSA program, which collected data on billions of e-mails and calls flowing through Brazil.

The spokesman for the US Embassy in Brazil’s capital, Dean Chaves, said in an e-mailed response that US officials would not comment ‘‘on every specific alleged intelligence activity.’’ But he said, ‘‘We value our relationship with Brazil, understand that they have valid concerns about these disclosures, and we will continue to engage with the Brazilian government in an effort to address those concerns.’’

In Mexico City, the Mexican foreign ministry said it sent a diplomatic note to the United States asking for a thorough investigation. It said officials also summoned the US ambassador to express Mexico’s concerns.

The US Embassy in Mexico declined to comment.

Rousseff and Pena Nieto are to meet with President Obama at the G-20 summit this week in St. Petersburg. In addition, Rousseff was also scheduled to visit the White House in October during the first state visit by a Brazilian leader in more than two decades.