Oil can be a dirty business, and so can spying. It has been reported by Globo TV that, according to secret documents supplied by whistleblower Edward Snowden through journalist Glen Greenwald, the NSA has been spying on Brazil’s state-run oil company, Petrobras, as well as the private computer networks of Google in Brazil.
A slide in the leaked NSA presentation listed “economic” as an intention for spying, as well as political and diplomatic intentions. However, the documents do not specifically reveal the motivation for the alleged spying on the Brazilian oil company, according to Globo.
The leaked documents were classified as “top-secret” by the U.S. spy agency, only to be shared with the so-called “Five Eyes” spy partner network, which includes the U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand spy agencies.
As Bloomberg points out, if it is the case that the NSA has engaged in spying for economic purposes, this seems to contradict an NSA statement saying the U.S. “does not engage in economic espionage in any domain, including cyber”. According to Globo, the NSA has told them that the agency only gathers economic information so it can monitor for potential instability in financial markets, not to pilfer commercial secrets.
The Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper has in an official statement defended against “Allegations of Economic Espionage”. Clapper maintains that,
“It is not a secret that the Intelligence Community collects information about economic and financial matters, and terrorist financing.
We collect this information for many important reasons: for one, it could provide the United States and our allies early warning of international financial crises which could negatively impact the global economy. It also could provide insight into other countries’ economic policy or behavior which could affect global markets.
What we do not do, as we have said many times, is use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of – or give intelligence we collect to – US companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line.”
Importantly, some additional names of companies and institutions listed in the leaked presentation have been blacked out by journalist Greenwald. He states that’s “It’s a question of responsible journalism”, as some of the documents do contain information in relation to spying on terrorists, and legitimate matters of national security that should not be published. However, he also states that “there is much more information on spying on innocents, against people who have nothing to do with terrorism, or on industrial issues, which need to be made public”.
You can read the whole Globo story, co-authored by Glen Greenwald and TV Global reporter Sonia Bridi, here.
Image CC licensed by M.J.Ambriola