The front page of the Sunday edition of a major Brazilian newspaper O Globo today had the headline “US spied on millions of emails and calls of Brazilians” and was a story about how the NSA was spying on the communications of millions of Brazilians. (Rough English translation here.) This story was also provided by Edward Snowden, just as the earlier Der Spiegel story about spying on Germans.
The Guardian shared this scoop with other newspapers because, as Glenn Greenwald explains, they have so much material to in the pipeline for their own paper that they did not want to delay the news. This willingness to share scoops is another feature that distinguishes the Guardian from other news outlets.
As the headline suggests, the crux of the main article details how the NSA has, for years, systematically tapped into the Brazilian telecommunication network and indiscriminately intercepted, collected and stored the email and telephone records of millions of Brazilians. The story follows an article in Der Spiegel last week, written by Laura Poitras and reporters from that paper, detailing the NSA’s mass and indiscriminate collection of the electronic communications of millions of Germans. There are many more populations of non-adversarial countries which have been subjected to the same type of mass surveillance net by the NSA: indeed, the list of those which haven’t been are shorter than those which have. The claim that any other nation is engaging in anything remotely approaching indiscriminate worldwide surveillance of this sort is baseless.
As those two articles detail, all of this bulk, indiscriminate surveillance aimed at populations of friendly foreign nations is part of the NSA’s “FAIRVIEW” program. Under that program, the NSA partners with a large US telecommunications company, the identity of which is currently unknown, and that US company then partners with telecoms in the foreign countries. Those partnerships allow the US company access to those countries’ telecommunications systems, and that access is then exploited to direct traffic to the NSA’s repositories. Both articles are based on top secret documents provided by Edward Snowden; O Globo published several of them.
Some Americans may shrug at their own government spying on them but the people in these other countries are rightly upset at a foreign power scooping up their records, just as Americans would be upset if they learned that (say) the Chinese government was intercepting their communications, and this latest revelation is big news there. It will be seen as yet another confirmation of the imperialist nature of the US government.
Meanwhile some foreign business might leave the US cloud services if they think that their business secrets are being given to their competitors or the US government.
If any US reporters bother to ask president Obama why the US is spying on Brazilians, will we hear that all the hijackers who flew the planes into the Twin Towers on 9/11 were from Brazil and that that country has long been a haven for al Qaeda so we need to spy on them to ‘keep us safe’? After all, the Bush administration managed to make the public accept that story about Iraq and why allow a good lie to be used just once? Besides, Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia, no?