Latest Snowden revelation: US gathers intel on Venezuela, Brazil, and Mexico

posted at 10:01 am on July 11, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Or at least wake me when we get to Luxembourg.  The tawdry revelations from the bottom of the Edward Snowden cache continue to seep out, this time in Brazil, where the newspaper O Globo reports in shock that US intelligence services collect information on Latin America.  In other news, O Globo also reports that water is wet, or something:

A Brazilian newspaper on Tuesday published an article it said is based on documents provided by the former American contractor Edward Snowden asserting that the United States has been collecting data on telephone calls and e-mails from several countries in Latin America, including important allies such as Brazil, Colombia and Mexico.

The paper, O Globo, based in Rio de Janeiro, says the documents show the National Security Agency amassed military and security data on countries such as Venezuela, an American adversary that has been accused of aiding Colombia’s Marxist rebels and maintaining close ties with Iran. But the documents also show that the agency carried out surveillance operations to unearth inside commercial information on the oil industry in Venezuela and the energy sector in Mexico, which is under state control and essentially closed to foreign investment.

U.S. officials have declined to address issues about intelligence gathering or the O Globo report, except to issue a statement saying that “we have been clear that the United States does gather foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations.”

The report on Tuesday came after O Globo on Sunday published a story contending that Brazil is a major target of the NSA’s international effort to monitor telecommunications. The newspaper said that in gathering data in Brazil, the NSA counted on the collaboration of American and Brazilian telecommunications companies, though O Globo did not name them.

This is such an important development that the Washington Post didn’t bother to e-mail it to its readers until today, despite originally posting the article yesterday morning.  This may be the least surprising news of the entire story. What part of intelligence is unclear, anyway?

The reasons why we’d watch Venezuela are obvious, and not just for the Iranian and FARC connections.  Oil is a vital national interest for any industrial nation, which is why the US watches the oil industries in Venezuela, Mexico, and Brazil.  The oil markets are fungible, and the output of these nations matters in terms of preparation and security.  Especially given the inclination of all three to seize foreign investment and nationalize it in the energy sector (Mexico and Venezuela did that years ago), we’d be remiss in ignoring it.

The narrative seems to be petering out with Snowden, but the issue of domestic surveillance is still front and center in the US.  Lawmakers are getting fed up with the half-truths and worse from Obama administration officials when testifying to Congress and are blaming the White House for undermining oversight:

Lawmakers tasked with overseeing national security policy say a pattern of misleading testimony by senior Obama administration officials has weakened Congress’s ability to rein in government surveillance.

Members of Congress say officials have either denied the existence of a broad program that collects data on millions of Americans or, more commonly, made statements that left some lawmakers with the impression that the government was conducting only narrow, targeted surveillance operations. …

On three occasions since 2009, top Justice Department officials said the government’s ability to collect business records in terrorism cases is generally similar to that of law enforcement officials during a grand jury investigation. That comparison, some lawmakers now say, signaled to them that data was being gathered on a case-by-case basis, rather than the records of millions of Americans’ daily communications being vacuumed up in bulk.

In addition, two Democratic members of the Senate Intelligence Committee say that even in top-secret briefings, officials “significantly exaggerated” the effectiveness of at least one program that collected data on Americans’ e-mail usage.

Republicans want James Clapper’s resignation as Director of National Intelligence for his misrepresentations, and even Democrats are becoming disenchanted with the Obama administration’s national-security approach:

Some Democrats and civil libertarians have expressed disappointment in what they say is a pattern of excessive secrecy from President Obama. He had pledged to run a more transparent administration than his predecessor, George W. Bush, who signed off on the NSA’s controversial warrantless wiretapping program and, with the authorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, launched the bulk data-collection program that has continued.

“The national security state has grown so that any administration is now not upfront with Congress,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee. “It’s an imbalance that’s grown in our government, and one that we have to cleanse.”

That will take a few firings to get the process started, and so far, we haven’t seen any.  We’ve actually seen more personnel moves at the IRS than we have in the nat-sec sector since the NSA scandal burst out into the open despite the misleading testimony provided to Congress.  Until some of the President’s priorities get impacted by Congressional outrage, don’t expect that to change, and unless Congress so acts, it’s clear that the outrage is mainly for public consumption only.

Finally, back to Snowden, who’s going to find it very difficult to get out of that Russian airport to an asylum destination, according to McClatchy:

Beginning a third week holed up in a Moscow airport’s transit zone, Edward Snowden finds himself far enough away to evade U.S. authorities, but also too far from any of the sympathetic nations willing to shelter him.

Aviation experts say that even if Snowden accepts the tentative offers of Venezuela, Nicaragua or Bolivia to give him shelter, it’s virtually impossible to chart a flight plan to those nations that doesn’t include traveling over or refueling in a U.S.-friendly country that could demand inspection of the plane – and detain him.

Nations have full, exclusive jurisdiction over their airspace, so any plane carrying Snowden could be forced to land if it flies over the territory of a country that’s willing to help American authorities capture the fugitive intelligence contractor. Snowden faces felony charges in the United States for leaking classified documents that detailed the National Security Agency’s extensive surveillance apparatus.

“Nations control their airspace up to the heavens, the old saying goes,” said John Q. Mulligan, an aviation law expert at DePaul University’s College of Law. “Just look at the map. It’s probably possible to figure out a route that wouldn’t touch the airspace of the United States or any friendly nations, but it wouldn’t be easy.”

At this point, it’s probably Russia or nothing at all for Snowden.


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Comments

They’ve run out of people to spy on, so they’ve even started spying on themselves.

Flange on July 11, 2013 at 10:08 AM

Has HA figured out if he is a traitor or a hero yet?

Bmore on July 11, 2013 at 10:08 AM

Snowden is a vile, anti-American traitor who ought to be captured and given the harshest punishment available.

bluegill on July 11, 2013 at 10:10 AM

Mexico

Gotta know where to ship the guns.

CurtZHP on July 11, 2013 at 10:11 AM

Has HA figured out if he is a traitor or a hero yet?

Bmore on July 11, 2013 at 10:08 AM

Neither. He’s a broken clock. Got it right once thus far (domestic spying), lets see if he can manage 2.

nobar on July 11, 2013 at 10:12 AM

Neither. He’s a broken clock. Got it right once thus far (domestic spying), lets see if he can manage 2.
nobar on July 11, 2013 at 10:12 AM

Only a coward or an utterly blind and clueless person would hold back on calling Snowden what he is: an anti-American traitor!

bluegill on July 11, 2013 at 10:14 AM

Shame on you cheap partisan hacks in the comment section here who call yourselves conservatives and who sanctify the Michael Moore and Bradley Manning bosom buddy Edward Snowden!

bluegill on July 11, 2013 at 10:17 AM

At this point, it’s probably Russia or nothing at all for Snowden.

Poor little Eddie……hope he likes Vodka, and Russian Polkas.

Rovin on July 11, 2013 at 10:17 AM

Hmmmm,and Snowden is an American!!!

canopfor on July 11, 2013 at 10:18 AM

Shame on you cheap partisan hacks in the comment section here who call yourselves conservatives and who sanctify the Michael Moore and Bradley Manning bosom buddy Edward Snowden!

bluegill on July 11, 2013 at 10:17 AM

I really don’t give a shit about Snowden, I’m just making casual observation. It’s not like we are talking about what the NSA did (in these threads).

nobar on July 11, 2013 at 10:19 AM

Snowden wishcasting articles: 5,489

NSA investigative articles: 0

faraway on July 11, 2013 at 10:20 AM

‘REVELATION’? Seriously? The United States spies on other nations…duh! Anyone who is shocked by this is beyond naieve!

China said that it is surprised and upset that the US has been spying on it….CHINA, the nation we KNOW has an entire multi-story building filled with hackers who have been hacking into every agency, business, official computer in the US & stealing our secrets, plans, and ideas for years. LOL!

easyt65 on July 11, 2013 at 10:21 AM

Another thorough investigation into domestic spying on Americans, Ed. Don’t fall for the distractions. Oh wait.

kunegetikos on July 11, 2013 at 10:21 AM

Scorecard:
Snowden wishcasting articles – 5,388
NSA investigative articles – 0

faraway on July 11, 2013 at 9:43 AM

+101

kunegetikos on July 11, 2013 at 10:23 AM

At this point, it’s probably Russia or nothing at all for Snowden.

Poor little Eddie……hope he likes Vodka, and Russian Polkas.

Rovin on July 11, 2013 at 10:17 AM

Rovin:And,the Ruuskies could unleash Anna Chapman,for some
pillow talk!:)
(sarc)

canopfor on July 11, 2013 at 10:24 AM

And I’d only be shocked if Venezuela, Brazil or Mexico wasn’t spying on the US.

All part of the Great Game.

rbj on July 11, 2013 at 10:28 AM

The only option left for Snowden is to hire “The Transporter” to get him to Latin America.

PrettyD_Vicious on July 11, 2013 at 10:29 AM

At this point, it’s probably Russia or nothing at all for Snowden.

Poor little Eddie……hope he likes Vodka, and Russian Polkas.

Rovin on July 11, 2013 at 10:17 AM

Perhaps a job in a radio factory.

slickwillie2001 on July 11, 2013 at 10:32 AM

bluegill on July 11, 2013 at 10:14 AM

You’re one of the biggest cowards on this site, you pathetic robot.

MadisonConservative on July 11, 2013 at 10:46 AM

so far, while damaging to American Security and actual Civil Liberties, Snowden hasn’t disclosed a single thing that is actually illegal and unconstitutional plus a bi-partisian committee in congress knew about it all.

Snowden is an Idiot, and thanks to his idiocy and worldview that consist of “America is the source of all Evil” he finds himself stuck in an Airport in a true Authoritarian country.

jp on July 11, 2013 at 10:47 AM

And,the Ruuskies could unleash Anna Chapman,for some
pillow talk!:)
(sarc)

canopfor on July 11, 2013 at 10:24 AM

Well…in that case, I’m going to spill my guts too!

bigmacdaddy on July 11, 2013 at 10:47 AM

bluegill on July 11, 2013 at 10:14 AM

bluegill on July 11, 2013 at 10:17 AM

Wow! A little aggressive this morning, aren’t we? It’s almost as if you want to start a fight or something.

a capella on July 11, 2013 at 10:50 AM

What prevents Snowden from taking a ship to Venezuela? Very had to know he’s on some cargo ship bound for a socialist paradise.

philw1776 on July 11, 2013 at 11:08 AM

Shame on you cheap partisan hacks in the comment section here who call yourselves conservatives and who sanctify the Michael Moore and Bradley Manning bosom buddy Edward Snowden!

bluegill on July 11, 2013 at 10:17 AM

What are you blabbering about? What is it that snowden did wrong? Or should we stupid rubes just shut up and accept that our government can spy on us carte blanch and any whistleblowers trying to inform us are traitors and should be hung from the nearest tree?

Timin203 on July 11, 2013 at 11:20 AM

Impeach and EXECUTE them. Getting sick and tired of this protect the political CLASS at all costs BS that only the Republicans are harmed by.

astonerii on July 11, 2013 at 11:25 AM

jp on July 11, 2013 at 10:47 AM

I’d rather be in a Russian airport then an American jail.

But anyways…. What? The entire NSA spying program is unconstitutional (4th amendment) which is why the NSA is not allowed to operate on US soil (posse comitatus says military cant operate on Us soil) and so are “blanket warrants” (read 4th amendment) and I’m fairly sure the constitution doesn’t allow for secret courts to issue secret warrants and create secret precedent.

Also fairly sure that the cornerstone of common law court is an adversarial process which allows both sides to be told. In other words, a court needs a prosecutor and a defense attorney, you can’t just have a prosecutor and a friendly judge.

And how does this hurt our national security? China, Russia, and the terrorists no doubt know that the US is doing all of this, the only people who didn’t are the only people who matter — the tax payers.

Timin203 on July 11, 2013 at 11:27 AM

Shame on you cheap partisan hacks in the comment section here who call yourselves conservatives and who sanctify the Michael Moore and Bradley Manning bosom buddy Edward Snowden!

bluegill on July 11, 2013 at 10:17 AM

We are doing nothing wrong. Then again, I consider oppressive government and those that enable it to be evil. Since people like you apparently lost the ability to feel shame, I bid you a poor existence and hope that the chains of oppression weigh heavily upon you shoulders and crushingly destroy all of your dreams.

astonerii on July 11, 2013 at 11:27 AM

I think Captain Louis Renault needs to make an appearance.

bugsy on July 11, 2013 at 11:33 AM

The fact of the matter is, nothing Snowden has exposed will make the US alter it’s snooping programs. They’re going to keep right on doing exactly what they want to do and there’s not a damn thing Congress or Americans or Latin America or China or Canada or anyone else can do about it. That’s the way this administration rolls. Right over the people’s rights.

scalleywag on July 11, 2013 at 12:51 PM

I keep wondering where the outrage is? People don’t seem to really care if their rights are being infringed upon or not, they’ve falled into this false belief that’s it’s all being done to “keep us safe”.

scalleywag on July 11, 2013 at 12:54 PM

Finally, back to Snowden, who’s going to find it very difficult to get out of that Russian airport to an asylum destination, according to McClatchy:

They can get him out. It will be interesting for him and probably tiresome, but they can get him out.

If the MSM isn’t talking about it, quite a few don’t even know about it. Someone went out asking people on the street to help Obama repeal the bill of rights the other day and collected quite a shocking number of signatures.

(shocking to me at least) (seriously)

dogsoldier on July 11, 2013 at 1:47 PM

I keep wondering where the outrage is? People don’t seem to really care if their rights are being infringed upon or not, they’ve falled into this false belief that’s it’s all being done to “keep us safe”.

scalleywag on July 11, 2013 at 12:54 PM

Sorry I meant to have this above my response…

dogsoldier on July 11, 2013 at 1:48 PM

China said that it is surprised and upset that the US has been spying on it….CHINA, the nation we KNOW has an entire multi-story building filled with hackers who have been hacking into every agency, business, official computer in the US & stealing our secrets, plans, and ideas for years. LOL!

easyt65 on July 11, 2013 at 10:21 AM

We have yet to be offered Snowden’s opinion as to whether or not the Chinese electronic espionage is morally OK or not (we know from his public tribulations that the US electronic espionage on China and other countries such as Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil, etc is wrong :), which is a shame, because so many of us need urgent guidance on this issue :)…

jimver on July 11, 2013 at 3:15 PM