US 'spied on Brazilian president and top officials'

Whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks publishes NSA list of 29 phone numbers of top officials that were bugged.

    Rousseff had cancelled an earlier visit to Washington after reports of NSA spying first emerged in 2013 [EPA]
    Rousseff had cancelled an earlier visit to Washington after reports of NSA spying first emerged in 2013 [EPA]

    The US spy agency bugged the phone of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff along with her top political and financial officials, according to new information released by WikiLeaks.

    The whistle-blowing website published on Saturday a National Security Agency (NSA) list of 29 Brazilian government phone numbers that the controversial American spy agency monitored.

    "The publication proves that not only President Dilma Rousseff was targeted but also her assistant, her secretary, her chief of staff, her palace office and even the phone in her presidential jet," WikiLeaks said in a statement.

    "Even on her official travels, President Rousseff is not safe from interception," the group added.

    Publication of the list sheds new light on the spying scandal that first erupted in 2013 and damaged relations between the US and Brazil, prompting Rousseff to cancel a state visit to Washington in an embarrassment for US President Barack Obama.

    Impact business confidence

    Rousseff did finally visit the United States this week, but the new spying revelations did not emerge until just after her return.

    "Some things have changed... I believe President Obama," she said during her recent visit when asked about assurances that the US would no longer spy on leaders in allied countries.

    According to a story on The Intercept website, which first reported the WikiLeaks data, the eavesdropping apparently began in early 2011 or even earlier.

    WikiLeaks said the mobile phone of Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado, former foreign affairs minister from 2013 to 2015 and current Brazilian ambassador to the US, was targeted. As was the phone for the attorney general for the finance ministry.

    In a statement, WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange said the latest disclosures could impact business confidence in Brazil.

    "If President Rousseff wants to see more US investment in Brazil on the back of her recent trip as she claims, how can she assure Brazilian companies that their US counterparts will not have an advantage provided by this surveillance, until she can really guarantee the spying has stopped - not just on her, but on all Brazilian issues," he wrote.

    The latest disclosures come on the heels of new WikiLeaks releases that appeared to show the United States had spied on German and French government officials.

    SOURCE: AFP


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