ESPIONAGE IS PART of the TOTAL WAR
By: Raúl Zibechi
President Dilma Rousseff’s decision to postpone her visit to the United States because of the espionage that the National Security Agency (NSA) carries out in Brazil is hardly the most visible part of the geopolitical dispute that occurs in the region of South America. Before communicating the suspension of the trip, she received diverse and opposing pressures, that of former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva among them, who demanded explanations from the government of Barack Obama.
In reality Rousseff had little chance of maintaining her trip to Washington after the June mobilizations that decimated her popularity and placed her government under public scrutiny. Shaking the hand of the president responsible for the espionage of her personal communications and the world’s fourth oil company, Petrobras, would have put at risk the incipient upturn of her approval levels one year before the presidential elections.
The distancing has an elevated political cost for the White House after the complex situation that it is going through because of the failed attempt to attack Syria. The United States needs to maintain cordial relations with Brazil, who it says publically is a strategic ally, but in reality it considers the only country capable of leading the region and avoiding restraints against its interests.
Ever since Sunday, September 1, the Globo Network asserted that Edward Snowden, ex CIA agent, had data that pointed to the fact that the state-owned Petrobras had been the object of NSA espionage. Rousseff did not hide her government’s indignation. “It is evident that the motive for the espionage is not security or the fight against terrorism, but rather economic and strategic interests” (Valor, September 10, 2013). That’s how she waylaid the ridiculous excuse of the United States agency.
In effect, everything points to interest in Petrobras. Three specialists consulted by the daily O Globo agree on that appreciation. Armando Guedes Coelho, president of Petrobras between 1988 and 1989, emphasized that the company is the world leader in ultra deep-water exploration and that it carries out more perforations than “Shell, Exxon and BP together.” The White House’s interest would be to know the real existing reserves on the coasts of Brazil and Africa, because they (Brazil and Africa) can “alter the current geopolitics of oil,” since the supplies would pass to being generated “in areas without large political conflicts” (O Globo, September 9, 2013).
Other specialists, like the director of the Brazilian Infrastructure Center, point out that the principal interest is “to steal technology secrets” so that “United States companies can explore any place in the world, like Alaska.” Meanwhile, sources at the National Oil Agency estimate that an additional interest for the espionage is to have privileged information about the auction of oil-bearing blocks that the Brazilian State realizes.
In response, the Brazilian government decided to tighten ties with Argentina to collaborate in cyber-defense. The Minister of Defense, Celso Amorim, said in Buenos Aires that: “Brazil considers it fundamental to initiate a process of cooperation in the area of cybernetic defense with its principal strategic ally.” He added that: “it is perhaps the most important area for defense in the 21st Century,” because it will be more difficult every day to use conventional weapons, while “cybernetics can be weapons of mass destruction” (O Globo, September 13, 2013).
The recent meeting of the Defense Ministers of both countries, Agustín Rossi and Amorim, resulted in a statement in which they point out: “the need to impel cooperation in cyber defense and the creation of a bilateral working sub-group on the theme” (Defense Ministry, September 13, 2013). They also agreed to organize a visit of Argentine authorities to become familiar with the Brazilian Army’s Cyber Defense Center.
In parallel, Brasilia decided on the creation of its own system of electronic mail that can enter into service in the second semester of 2014 and will be “a Brazilian alternative to the popular Hotmail, from Microsoft, and Gmail, of Google” (Folha de Sao Paulo, September 2, 2013). According to the Minister of Communications, Paulo Bernardo, the e-mail that the state of Correos will put into effect “will have cryptography to protect the privacy of users, and the data will be stored in Brazil, different from what occurs when one uses Gmail.”
For some time Brazil has been impelling a regional fiber-optic network within the UNASUR so that the Internet traffic between the South American is not forced to pass through the United States. For 2016, the state-owned Telebras communications will have in orbit the first national satellite for civilian and military Internet traffic, thus overcoming the current dependency on the sector’s multinationals.
Numerous investments are necessary to protect the country’s sovereignty and that of its most important companies. The president of Petrobras announced that in 2013 2 billion dollars will be invested in the security of its information and that the company will invest 10 billion dollars in that rubric until 2017 (Valor, September 18, 2013). She also reported that the oil company has three thousand civil servants involved in the information security area, which is equivalent to 5 percent of its 80,000 employees, and that the seismic data for production and exploration are moved through physical means and not through the Internet.
It is a war that involves states and corporations, whose methods of acting are more apparent all the time: a silent war that is played with sophisticated weapons, often invisible, but with enormous capacity for destruction, as Minister Amorim pointed out. It is a war that is not won with speeches and for which not all are, physically and mentally, prepared. It is how the current system functions, where dispossession and pillage are more important than the traditional forms of accumulation. It is total war.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Translation: Chiapas Support Committee
Friday, September 20, 2013