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"I Thought my Phones Were Being Recorded", Says Defense Minister

06/21/2013 - 08h28

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ELEONORA DE LUCENA
FROM SÃO PAULO

The discovery of a mega-system of espionage in the United States worries Brazil and it is necessary to invest in "cyber defense". It was the Defense Minister Celso Amorim who gave the warning. He himself suspects that he may have been the target of wiretapping in the past.

The minister advocates the development of a thought of defense for the region, which prioritizes natural resources. "Brazil is a very rich country, it has many nature reserves. These resources could be the object of greed." For him, it is necessary to create an industrial base for joint defense in South America.

In this interview, given the last Tuesday (19) in Sao Paulo, Amorim, 71, also talked about the demonstrations around the country - which, in his view, reflect the distance between the structures of government and the population.

Folha - What is happening in Brazil?

Celso Amorim - It is not only in Brazil. It's a puzzle that we have to decipher. We have no problem of youth unemployment like in Europe. There is, perhaps, a desire for greater participation. It is not this government nor the previous one. It's a generic thing that emerges from time to time. One must understand the reasons for this malaise. Governance structures generally end up leading to a certain distance between the population and power, whatever the power is. The reasons may be diffuse. Maybe this accentuates the need for political reform that brings the power structures closer to the citizens in general.

How do you analyze this mega-espionage, involving government and private companies, discovered in the U.S.?

I'll make a little joke. I was even disappointed that in 2009, they became interested in Turkey, South Africa, Russia and were not interested in Brazil [laughs]. It's because we say everything very clearly, maybe. In 2009, I had a meeting with the English Minister of Foreign Relations. I do not know if our meeting was recorded too [laughs].

Juca Varella/Folhapress
Defense Minister Celso Amorim suspects that he may have been the target of wiretapping in the past
Defense Minister Celso Amorim suspects that he may have been the target of wiretapping in the past

How does this affect Brazil?

This is part of this malaise, not only in Brazil but worldwide. This idea that there is total control over the lives of citizens, that freedom is permanently curtailed. In Brazil, as far as I know, there is nothing like it.

But can't Brazilians connected to foreign social networks be spied on through this scheme?

They could also be, of course. But what is known is more about the U.S. agencies. To my knowledge, nothing has come out about the Brazilian agencies. But Brazilians can be, yes. It is speculation.

People who are in key positions may be subject to more constant surveillance. I will speak frankly. On two occasions I thought my phones were being recorded. Once, when I lived in the U.S. and was ambassador to the UN. I was responsible for three committees on the issue of Iraq. My phone started making a very strange noise, and when the commission on Iraq ended, the noise did too. There was an obvious focus then.

Did you request an investigation?

No, because what I said there I said in public. Interestingly, when I left the Lula government, I continued many activities, participated in symposia on the nuclear issue, the question of Iran, and received calls from embassies. I also thought something was strange about my personal phone here in Brazil, in Rio. But that has also disappeared. They found out that I'm Defense Minister, they became more... I don't know who. These were the two situations I suspect, but I am not sure. I don't know where it came from, nor what it was. It may have been coincidence, but we distrust coincidences.

From the point of view of defense, does this worry Brazil?

Sure, this is why we have to have a cyber defense. To prevent them from getting into our systems, from knowing what we are planning. This is why we created a cyber defense center in the Army, with resources that do not compare with what I think would be necessary. Probably about a third of what England spends on cyber defense, about R$70 million (US$ 31 million).

Translated by DAVE WOLIN
Read the article in the original language