Photo: Newspaper Claims Brazil Spied on Diplomats from Russia, Iran, and Iraq
Brazil’s ABIN intelligence agency was keeping tabs on diplomats from Russia, Iran and Iraq in 2003-2004, Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper said Monday, citing what it described as an official agency report.
ABIN personnel trailed and photographed Russia’s then-consul in Rio de Janeiro and representatives of Russian arms-exporting firm Rosoboronexport out of concern the targets were engaged in espionage, the daily said.
Iran’s ambassador to Cuba, Seyed Davood Nohseni Salehi, was placed under surveillance during a 2004 visit to Brazil, according to Folha, which said ABIN also monitored the Iraqi Embassy in Brasilia in the months following the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq.
The office of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff responded to the story by saying it could not confirm the veracity of the information and by pointing out that monitoring of foreign officials in Brazil is legal.
The alleged ABIN operations “were pursuant to Brazilian legislation about protection of national interests. As Folha de Sao Paulo preferred not to send a copy of the documents obtained, we cannot validate their authenticity,” the presidential security office said.
Rousseff’s political mentor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, was president at the time of the ostensible espionage.
Folha published the story just as Rousseff’s administration, in partnership with Germany, is urging the United Nations General Assembly to pass a resolution banning the kind of pervasive global electronic surveillance carried out by the U.S. National Security Agency.
Rousseff postponed a planned state visit to Washington after the publication of documents showing that NSA intercepted her cellphone calls and e-mails.
The documents, provided by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, also revealed that NSA targeted Brazilian state oil company Petrobras, the South American nation’s mining and energy ministry and the communications of millions of ordinary Brazilians.