Brazilian President Snubs Obama: How US Cyber Espionage will Destroy the Internet

The US Government Open Source Center reports on Brazilian press reaction to President Dilma Roussef’s decision to cancel her state visit to Washington DC this fall, after revelations by Edward Snowden that the US National Security Agency not only intensively spied on all Brazilians online and engaged in industrial espionage but that special efforts were made to spy on the president herself.

Brazil is now the world’s 6th largest economy at $2 trillion a year, and its economy is bigger than that of Britain. Its middle class has doubled in size in the past decade.  Brazil’s major trading partner is China, followed by the European Union and then the US (trade with the US in 2010 was $60 bn annually).  China has more investments in Brazil than does the US.

Roussef intends to denounce massive US cyber espionage in her speech at the United Nations meeting later this month in New York.  Most worrying, the Brazilian government appears determined to have all Brazilian email and web traffic stay inside the country on local servers, so as to avoid going through the NSA’s custody (the NSA put sniffers on fiber optic cables around the world to extract all data passing through them, including emails, web browsing and telephone calls).

The internet works because each node or connection point is equidistant from all other nodes or connection points.  If national bottlenecks are created, it could destroy net neutrality and interfere with international searching and communication.  By being greedy for big global data, the NSA may have killed the goose that lays the golden egg.

At the same time, knowledge of NSA tactics encourages other governments also to put their populations under intensive electronic surveillance.  The US is the ultimate bad example.

The OSC report:

President Rousseff Cancels State Visit to Washington
The Brazilian broadcast and printed media granted broad coverage to the imbroglio involving US electronic media surveillance reportedly focused on Brazilian targets including President Dilma Rousseff, and the impending announcement of her decision to cancel or not a planned trip to the United States. In the early afternoon Rousseff announced her decision to cancel the trip.


Tania Monteiro writes in Sao Paulo Agencia Estado that according to Planalto Palace the atmosphere is not right for a state visit to Washington in view of espionage allegations involving the US Government.  In Rousseff’s assessment the United States did not offer satisfactory explanations of allegations that surfaced in the media.  President Rousseff plans to criticize the surveillance claims when she addresses the opening session of the UN General Assembly. 


Tai Nalon reports in Sao Paulo Folha de Sao Paulo that President Rousseff stated that the absence of an internal investigation into the espionage allegations prompted her to cancel the planned visit.  The presidential communique states that “the Government of Brazil is aware of the importance and diversity of the bilateral relationship grounded in respect and mutual trust,” reads the statement.  “The illegal practice of interception of communications and data on citizens, companies, as well as members of Brazil’s administration constitute a serious fault that assails national sovereignty and individual rights, and is therefore incompatible with democratic relations between two friendly countries.”


Rousseff also expressed confidence in an adequate solution to the matter to allow the visit to take place as soon as possible to advance building “our strategic partnership to even higher levels.”  Prior to the release of Rousseff announcement Carlos Alexandre pondered in Brasilia Correio Braziliense that the likely cancellation would not have any impact on Brazil-US relations or on US security and surveillance policies.


Editor's Note: This essay originally appeared on September 18, 2013, on Informed Comment: Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion, a website featuring commentary by Professor Juan Cole.  It was reproduced here with the consent of Professor Cole.




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