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«Surveillance by U.S. intelligence agencies in Brasília»

Carta Capital cover stories on U.S. presence in the late 1990s,  by Bob Fernandes

Carta Capital cover stories on U.S. presence in the late 1990s, by Bob Fernandes

Source: Bob Fernandes of Terra Magazine, a former editor at Carta Capital.

In the late 1990s and early Oughts, Fernandes published a number of cover stories — above — on relations between U.S. intelligence agencies and their Brazilian counterparts.

Surveillance by U.S. intelligence agencies in Brasília

Por Bob Fernandes

Former president Fernando Henrique says: “I never knew of CIA spying” in Brazil. The current government demands explanations from the U.S. and the current president is discussing the matter with the Mercosul summit in Uruguay. The Congress is sending the Obama administration an official note of protest.

Let’s look at the facts. Between March 1999 and April 2004, I published 15 lengthy and detailed reports in Carta Capital magazine. Documents, names, addresses, and anecdotes proved that the U.S. was spying on Brazil.

Banking documents showed how, during the Cardoso government, the DEA, which combats the drug trade, paid for Federal Police operations.

The agency deposited the funds in the bank accounts of the agents involved.  At the time, the PF did not have a budget large enough to bankroll all of its operations.

The CIA, through the State Department, paid for a federal police electronic monitoring facility– paid for every brick of it. Prior to the arrival of Paulo Lacerda as chief of the federal police, in order to work at this base, PF agents and officials were submitted to lie detector tests in the U.S. The tests took place at hotels in Washington.

This situation continued until Marcio Thomas Bastos took over as Justice Minister and Paulo Lacerda as chief of the PF, when an adequate budget was supplied. This PF electronic surveillance base was known as CDO. After the articles were published, it was rechristened as SOIP, and later as COE. Today it is known as DAT, the Antiterrorism Division.

Carlos Costa headed the FBI in Brazil for 4 years. In a 17-page interview, he revealed that U.S. intelligence services had wiretapped the Brazilian ministry of foreign relations. Companies were spied on. Not even the official presidential residence was spared.

At least 16 U.S. secret agencies operated in Brazil.  Every Monday, these agencies would hold a “State of the Nation” meeting at the embassy in Brasília.

All of this I revealed with a wealth of detail: dates, names, addresses, documents, facts.  In April 2004, we published the names of those who, disguised as diplomats, as usual, headed the CIA, DEA, NSA and other agencies in Brazil.

Chellotti, director of the federal police, was dismissed after a report published in March 1999,  All this during the government of FHC, who now says he knew nothing of CIA activities. Renan Calheiros, Cardoso’s Minister of Justice, was summoned by the Congress. In the public forum, he was elusive. To me personally, he said: “This is how it is, this is how the game is played”.

Carlos Costa, head of the FBI in Brazil, testified in a secret session of Congress, in 2004.  He confirmed everything he had said in my interview with him:  the presence of the FBI, CIA, DEA, NSA, and espionage in general.

All of this taking place in near absolute silence.  At the time, a chilling silence. As chilling as the supposed “perplexity” of the Brazilia government upon “discovering” that the U.S. — and not just the U.S. — was spying on Brazil and on the rest of the world.

That is all very dramatic, but in defense of this collaboration, one might also point to the positive result of technical training on the Brazilian federal police, whose productivity has increased notably in recent years — it broke records this year for cocaine seizures, for example.

Likewise, documents released by Wikileaks reveal an investment in police technical training by U.S. experts and a willingness to criticize and advise its counterparts in such areas as terrorism and AML — anti-money laundering.

In March 2009, the U.S. Embassy was still searching for law enforcement partnerships with Brazil.

Interesting factoid: Brazil’s budget for electronic counterintelligence is a mere R$ 22 million per year. This is a bit like leaving the gate open only to discover later that the cow has wandered off.