Brazil admitted spying on foreign diplomats in an official government statement released on Monday. The acknowledgement came hours after a news report in newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo revealed that Brazilian Intelligence Agency aka ABIN agents followed diplomats from Iran, U.S. and Russia “on foot and by car to photograph them and record their activities at the embassy and in their homes.”
The Brazilian government is a vocal critic of the United States’ mass data-mining operations by the National Security Agency (NSA). Speaking on the issues of spying, the Brazilian government added the intelligence activities were, in “absolute compliance” with the legislation pertaining to such operations.
In September, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff canceled a state visit to Washington following revelations that U.S. intelligence agencies spied on her personal communications and those of other Brazilians as well as the oil giant, Petrobras. She also threatened to halt all commercial operations unless she received a public apology.
Although Brazil’s spying revelations put Rousseff’s administration in an awkward position (after repeatedly blasting U.S.), the violation of privacy is not as bad or vast as in the case of NSA.
One of ABIN’s targets and Russia’s honorary consul in the southern city of Porto Alegre, Fernando Sampaio told The New York Times that Brazil’s intelligence agency’s spying activities were “modest” and “very basic” when compared to NSA’s massive snooping programs.
Sampaio stated that governments spied on each other all the time to serve their national interests, implying that what Brazil did, almost a decade ago, was probably the most innocent form of diplomatic spying carried out “within its borders.”
NSA, on the other hand, not only carried out unwarranted domestic spying operations, but also hacked electronic communications of other countries and bugged those of world leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel for almost a decade.
Even U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry admitted last week that NSA “snooping” problem in some cases “reached too far.”