The Brazilian government intends to probe telecommunications companies operating in Brazil to find out if they illegally shared data with the United States National Security Agency after it was found the US had been spying on President Dilma Rousseff. Brazil’s government has accused the US of lying about the NSA’s activities in the country.
In response to the revelations, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff called an emergency meeting of ministers in which it was decided to call on the National Telecommunications Agency (Anatel) to carry out checks on telecom companies based in Brazil to see if they collaborated with the NSA.
The Brazilian government blasted NSA’s activities as “impermissible and unacceptable” and a violation of Brazilian sovereignty.
“[The US has] not given any reasonable explanations. In fact, all the explanations that have been given so far are false,” said minister of Communications Paulo Bernardo.
The US ambassador to Brazil, Thomas Shannon, was summoned by the government to account for the reports of NSA snooping on Tuesday. He claimed the NSA does not monitor communications on Brazilian territory or collaborate with telecommunications companies.
Citing data leaked by Edward Snowden, Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald revealed on Sunday that the NSA had been monitoring both the Brazilian and Mexican presidents.
“It is clear in several ways that [Rousseff’s] communications were intercepted, including the use of DNI Presenter, which is a program used by NSA to open and read emails and online chats,” Greenwald said.
In the wake of the new scandal Brazilian media is speculating whether the spy revelations will lead to a strong reaction from the Brazilian government and the cancellation of Dilma’s October visit to the States.
Citing a presidential spokesperson, Globo reporter Gerson Camarotti wrote that if a “satisfactory explanation” is not given by the Americans then Dilma “will not rule out canceling the visit.”
“There has to be a convincing explanation. If this doesn’t happen, the situation will become extremely delicate,” said the spokesperson.
US relations with Brazil have worsened considerably as a result of Edward Snowden’s leaks regarding the NSA’s massive spy network. Back in August, UK authorities detained Brazilian citizen David Miranda in a London airport over suspicions he was carrying leaked NSA data on behalf of his partner Glen Greenwald. UK law enforcement held Miranda for nine hours under the terrorist act and confiscated electronic equipment.
Brazil called Miranda’s detention without charges unjustifiable and called on the UK authorities to account for the move. Meanwhile Brazilian lawmakers have called for police protection for Greenwald and his partner, who have been invited to Congress to talk about the issue.
Brazil’s House of Representatives has voted to end the system of secret voting in the national legislature. That’s been a main demand from anti-government protesters who’ve taken to streets since June. And it was one of the five specific reform items that President Dilma Rousseff told lawmakers to pass to meet demonstrators’ demands.
Under current Brazilian law, senators and deputies vote on bills in secret. It’s only when a lawmaker specifically requests an open ballot that citizens know how their representative voted.
The measure now goes to the Senate, where it’s also likely to pass. It was first introduced in the congress in 2006.
Anti-corruption activists have long called for the end to the system, which they say makes it hard for citizens to hold politicians accountable for how they vote.
The decision came just days after legislators voted – in a secret ballot – to allow Congressman Natan Donadon to continue in his post. Donadon is serving a 13-year prison sentence for corruption. He is the first serving Congressman to be sent to prison since Brazil returned to democracy in the 1980s.
Congressional President Henrique Alves said the vote had been a blow for the credibility of Brazilian lawmakers.
The decision was an attempt to counter the criticism the Brazilian Congress has been facing lately. It comes a few days before Brazil’s Independence Day, on 7 September, when protests are set to take place across the country.
Members of Congress are worried that, as during the wave of demonstrations in June, much of the people’s anger in the upcoming protests will be directed at the politicians, who are seen by many as ineffective and corrupt.
Brazilians’ views are still marked by the ongoing Mensalão trial, one of the biggest corruption scandals in the country’s recent history, in which several legislators were convicted. The ruling Workers party of former president Lula da Silva and his closest aides are among those sentenced to jail terms.
The case of Donadon and other lawmakers convicted of crimes but still serving in Congress was described as a slap in the face by protesters.
Hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated in cities such as Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Salvador, demanding broad reforms to the education, health care and transport sectors, as well as an end to widespread corruption at all levels of the public sector.
The ability of Congress to hold votes in secret was seen as one of the ways legislators accused of corruption could stay in power, as their colleagues closed ranks without having to face criticism from angry constituents.
Nevertheless during the month of protest the Congress almost unanimously rejected a bill previously tailored by all parties which would contain corruption investigations of lawmakers to the police, leaving out prosecutors from the Justice department.