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Canadian security officials and mining companies were skeptical Monday over claims Canada had spied on Brazil’s mining and energy department, even as Brazil’s president accused Canada of apparent industrial espionage.
The Brazilian Foreign Minister summoned the Canadian ambassador to “transmit the indignation of the Brazilian government and demand explanations,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement that followed the revelations that were aired Sunday night on Brazil’s Globo network. The report said the metadata of phone calls and emails from and to the ministry were targeted by Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) to map the ministry’s communications. It didn’t indicate if emails were read or phone calls listened to.
Ray Boisvert, who was director general of counter-terrorism at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, said on Monday Canada would have little reason to spy on Brazil’s mining sector. “Like any crime drama, you look for capability and intent. Could CSEC do Brazil? Of course, it has significant capability to collect intelligence in the national interest. But on motive, you come up way short. If it was Iran, nobody would be surprised. But this is Brazil,” he said. “I’m really short on motive.”
The Brazilian TV report was based on documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and was the latest showing Brazil has been a target for United States, British and now Canadian spy agencies.
Mr. Boisvert, though, said a leaked document cited by the TV network could show nothing but an exercise.
“If you look at the document, it looks like really more a case of a scenario building exercise,” said Mr. Boisvert, who dealt directly with CSEC, Canada’s electronic eavesdropping agency, and is now president of the consulting firm I-Sec Integrated Strategies.
“We were all too busy chasing bad guys who can actually kill people. The idea that we spend a lot of time, or any time at all, on a country like Brazil is pretty low margin stuff, not likely to happen,” he said.
He said intelligence agencies involved in the growing cyber warfare threat do not test their methods on their actual targets. Instead, they sometimes conduct “paper exercises” using a similar target.
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