NSA Documents Leaked to Governments of Brazil, Mexico–Journalists Talk State Sovereignty

Various media outlets have reported on Glenn Greenwald’s activities over the weekend, which are the subject of this post.  However, I found NBC Bay Area’s recitation of events to be most helpful in understanding the crux of the story.  Based on that report, here’s what happened:

Over the weekend, Greenwald, the Rio de Janeiro-based American journalist who obtained secret National Security Agency documents from Snowden, released information to the governments of Brazil and Mexico that provided evidence that the NSA spy program targeted communications of the countries’ respective leaders. Furthermore, according to the documents, Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto’s emails were read within a month of his election.

This may not come as particularly shocking news. As one journalist put it, if this wasn’t occurring, “one would really wonder why the U.S. intelligence community wasn’t actively spying on other governments, especially those with enormous organized crime and drug issues that happen to sit along primary transatlantic fiber optic cables.”

It is actually the aforementioned freelancer’s post combined with Brazil’s reaction to the information and an interesting op-ed on spying as a “sovereign right” that I wanted to detail, especially because these individual components bring together a number of issues that past writers for this blog have discussed or highlighted in some way.

In regards to Brazil’s reaction, Justice Minister Eduardo Cardozo said this of Greenwald’s report: “[I]f the facts of [Greenwald’s] report are confirmed, they would be considered very serious and would constitute a clear violation of Brazil’s sovereignty.” According to NBC, he goes on to say, “This is completely outside the standard of confidence expected of a strategic partnership, as the U.S. and Brazil have.”

In a post published today, freelance journalist Joshua Foust criticized Brazil for reacting in such an “uproar,” calling the country “two-faced.” Specifically Foust emphasizes that Brazil operates its own “massive” spying network through which it targets its own citizens domestically.  He goes on to cite an opinion piece by The Moscow Times, which discusses spying as a “sovereign right.”

Similar to a post about Snowden from a few weeks back, The Moscow Times writer exclaims, “[T]he type of spying on foreigners that Snowden revealed is not a violation of any international law, treaty or convention.” Rather, the reporter explains, such “protests against the NSA are reduced to a simple argument: It is ‘bad’ to spy on others.”  This particular article was discussing Russia rather than Brazil or Mexico; however, Foust borrows the language of “spying as a sovereign right” in further asserting that spying is, indeed, “fundamental” to international relations.

I have linked both Foust’s post and The Times article for you to read, as well as a Brazilian article with links to the documents in question. But, I also wanted to excerpt the discussion of spying as a “sovereign right” from The Times article:

In reality, foreign espionage has always been considered a ‘sovereign right’ of every country. On occasion, even Russian officials admit this fact—particularly when they have been caught spying themselves.  Thus, Russia’s fervent objections to the NSA’s foreign espionage activities show a clear double standard . . . . Spying on each other is so systemized and accepted as a ‘sovereign right’ that the U.S. formally presents the head of its CIA station chief when he takes up his position at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow to Russian officials.

Again, you can read the full op-ed here, the Foust post here, the Fantastico report here (note that it is in Portuguese, but the documents linked thereto are in English), and the NBC Bay Area’s report here.

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3 Responses to “NSA Documents Leaked to Governments of Brazil, Mexico–Journalists Talk State Sovereignty”

  1. […] Read more: NSA Documents Leaked to Governments of Brazil … – Crossroads […]

  2. […] further response to the NSA revelations, including evidence that the U.S. agency was spying on Brazil, President Dilma Rousseff has been working with domestic lawmakers to implement legislation that […]

  3. […] month, Glenn Greenwald alerted the governments of Brazil and Mexico to evidence that the National Security Agency (NSA) spy program targeted the […]

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Professor William Snyder

Professor William C. Snyderis a member of the faculty of the Institute for National Security and Counter-terrorism at Syracuse University after fifteen years with the United States Department of Justice.

Ryan D. White

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Shelby E. Mann

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Christopher w. FolkChristopher W. Folk

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Jennifer A. CamilloJennifer A. Camillo

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