Globo, Brazil’s largest television network, has reported on its show “Fantastico” that according to the NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the US has been spying on Brazil’s state-run oil firm, Petrobras. Glenn Greenwald, a US journalist who has intimate ties with Edward Snowden, assisted Globo with their report on the situation. According to the documents, Petrobras has not been the only multinational corporation which has been targeted by the NSA; Google and the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a company through which international money transfers take place, have also had their computer systems compromised by the NSA.
As of now, no reason has been given as to why the NSA has started targeting multinational corporations. The documents leaked by Snowden only say that these three corporations serve as training lessons for new NSA agents, teaching them how to crack the networks of large, private corporations. James Klapper, the Director of National Intelligence in the United States, released a statement yesterday stating why the US collects the information it does:
“We collect this information for many important reasons: for one, it could provide the United States and our allies early warning of international financial crises which could negatively impact the global economy. It also could provide insight into other countries’ economic policy or behavior which could affect global markets…. What we do not do, as we have said many times, is use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of – or give intelligence we collect to – US companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line.”
However, the history of the United States in Latin America proves the exact opposite. In 1954, the United States led a coup d’etat in Guatemala because the United Fruit Company, a multinational US company, was in danger of losing its agrarian monopoly in the country. Later, in the 1970’s, the CIA backed coup attempts in Chile due to Salvador Allende’s attempts at nationalizing many US companies located in Chile. Given this record of intervention within Latin American countries to secure economic dominance, Brazil has every reason to be concerned for Petrobras’s security and success.
That may be part of the reason why Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, is so upset at the United States and Barack Obama. The other reason is that earlier this week “Fantastico” released a report which stated that the United States had been spying on her private communications, along with those of Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto. President Rousseff was so upset by this news that she publicly sought out President Obama at the G20 summit currently happening in Russia, demanding an explanation from the US as to why it was spying on her private life. Rousseff also threatened to cancel her trip the the United States later this year, a trip that holds great importance for the United States and its relations with the emerging economic market in Brazil.
All signs point to the fact that the United States is targeting Petrobras due to the recent oil discovery in Brazil. The Lula Oil Field, located about 200 miles off-shore from Rio de Janeiro, has been named the largest oil discovery in the Western hemisphere in the last 30 years. The oil field is estimated to hold 50 to 100 billion barrels of oil. If true, this would make Brazil one of the top 5 oil producers in the world. With ever-increasing tension in the Middle East and much resistance to the Keystone pipeline domestically, the United States would find it highly advantageous to gather as much information as possible about the Lula Oil Field. However, the means as to how the US acquires this information would also be important, seeing as positive relations with Brazil would be imperative toward starting trade discussions for said oil.