South China Morning Post, Hong Kong

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Warning to Brazil Lawmakers Before Meeting with Edward Snowden (Estadao, Brazil)


"To begin with, we must assume that the committee's desire to interview Snowden is to the liking of the U.S. intelligence services, because if granted, it would provide them with a unique opportunity to try and uncover the whereabouts of the young former analyst, and then commence an operation to return him to the United States. ... They should know, too, that their [diplomatic] immunity won't be worth an ounce of caviar the moment they land in Moscow and dive into the electrifying underworld of international espionage."


By Paulo Sotero*



Translated By Rachael Bradley


October 1, 2013


Brazil – Estadao – Original Article (Portuguese)

Secretary of State Kerry listens with surprise as Brazil Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota tells him that the United States must 'terminate' its espionage activities against 'citizens of Brazil and other countries,' Aug. 13. If Brazilian lawmkers journey to Russian to meet Edward Snowden, they too may be surprised by the exciting world of spying.


BBC NEWS VIDEO: Brazil Accuses U.S. Of Using NSA For Industrial Espionage, Sept. 28, 00:04:34RealVideo

If successful, a plan to send to Russia a delegation from the Chamber of Deputies Foreign Relations Committee to interview Edward Snowden on NSA spying activities in Brazil, unanimously approved two weeks ago, will put Brazil’s legislature at the center of the heaviest game in international relations. Directly involving representatives of the people in this game is inevitable and even desirable, to the extent that the country achieves its ambition to occupy the space it deserves among the great powers. The recent participation of lawmakers in the complicated talks with Bolivia is a step in this direction. However, in this case, it would be advisable for legislators to take the field with their eyes wide open and no illusions.


To begin with, we must assume that the committee's desire to interview Snowden is to the liking of the U.S. intelligence services, because if granted, it would provide them with a unique opportunity to try and uncover the whereabouts of the young former Booz Allen-contractor, and to then commence an operation to return him to the United States. With that in mind, lawmakers shouldn't rule out the possibility of becoming unwitting participants in a scene worthy of a spy thriller - before, during and after their meeting in Russia. In addition, the Chamber delegation has to be realistic in regard to understandings they will need to enter into with diplomats from Moscow to schedule an encounter with Snowden.


The Russians, as we know, are used to spying and being spied upon. It must, therefore, be curious for them to see the perplexity felt by lawmakers in the face of NSA snooping on Brazil.


Brazil, a country with a tradition of wiretapping and the selective leakage of confidential information about its own citizens, is the only nation of its size and stature that does not have a sophisticated counterespionage agency or an organization that collects and interprets classified information from outside its borders. As Communications Minister Paulo Bernardo admitted, the national attitude is so relaxed that classified information is passed between civil servants and governments - not on secure Intranet networks - but via G-Mail or other Internet providers that are not only vulnerable to foreign intelligence services that take the subject quite seriously, but any backyard hacker.


What must also seem strange to the Russians is the controversy Snowden’s exposure of NSA activities have caused in the United States itself, including revelations that the agency spies on leaders and businesses in friendly countries like Germany, France, Mexico and Brazil, under the justification, obviously bogus in this case, of protecting the country from terrorism. Under the precept that individual liberty is guaranteed by the Constitution, the U.S. press has published copious reports and articles on NSA spying activity in the U.S., highlighting its attack on the right to privacy of citizens and its violations of laws adopted after September 11, which were put in place to justify greater action by the security services due to the threat of terrorism. In Putin’s Russia, spying is widespread, and is conducted without concern for such subtleties.


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Another peculiarity is Russian pragmatism. Snowden must have been concerned about the resourcefulness Vladimir Putin displayed when the opportunity arose to take advantage of the mess President Barack Obama found himself in over the Syria issue. Putin offered his mate a way out, and then mocked “American exceptionalism” in an article published in The New York Times. Snowden, who was granted a year of political asylum in Russia, should know that he is a likely candidate for an exchange between Washington and Moscow.


The Russians won't let pass an opportunity to record every sensitive detail of the visit by Brazilian lawmakers, aware of the possibility that the CIA will use the occasion to penetrate its counter-intelligence services. Movie-like details aside, there is still the challenge of interpreting the signals emitted by the Russians.


Brazil has no tradition in this art and has already paid dearly for that. In 2010, with a letter of encouragement from Obama in hand, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, alongside Turkey, embarked on a well-intentioned attempt to mediate a nuclear deal between the international community and Iran. Then Foreign Minister Celso Amorim prepared for negotiations convinced that, although a difficult feat, they would succeed, not only on the merits of the groundwork laid, but because Russia and China had already indicated that they would not support the adoption of new economic sanctions against Tehran at the U.N. Security Council. Russian and Chinese vetoes were the guarantee that negotiations were the only route available.

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But Amorim, the current defense minister, was wrong. He didn’t realize that when forced to choose between resistance to new sanctions against Iran or preserving relations with the United States and influencing permanent members of the Security Council on non-proliferation issues, Russia and China would choose the latter, and endorse fresh Iran sanctions proposed by Washington.


That is in fact what happened. Veteran Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who has held the post for eight years, had visited Washington while Lula was in Tehran, and publicly expressed his exasperation at Brazilian petulance for meddling in a matter of the great powers. All before meeting with Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who had already obtained China’s backing for the sanctions.


The Chamber of Deputies delegation that travels to Moscow should be aware that Sergey Lavrov is Secretary of State John Kerry's Russian interlocutor in the ongoing case of Syria's chemical weapons, as he was with Iran. They should know, too, that their [diplomatic] immunity won't be worth an ounce of caviar the moment they land in Moscow and dive into the electrifying underworld of international espionage.


*Paulo Sotero Marques is director of the Brazil Institute of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and from 1989 to 2006, was Washington correspondent for Estadao.


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