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Brazil Admits It Has Spied On U.S. Diplomats

When a Brazilian newspaper published a report that the U.S. had spied on Brazilian President Dilma Rouseff, the country complained bitterly. Rouseff even postponed a state visit with President Obama.

On Monday, the Brazilian paper Folha de S. Paulo published a report that revealed a government operation "modest in scope and technique" that spied on American, Russian, Iranian and Iraqi diplomats in Brazil.

The paper reports that Brazilian Intelligence Agency operatives followed the diplomats on foot and by car. They took pictures and monitored a commercial property leased by the U.S. Embassy in the Brazilian capital.

The Wall Street Journal reports the government issued a statement shortly after the publication of the report. The Journal adds:

"The Brazilian government's Office of Institutional Security, which oversees the intelligence agency for Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, acknowledged the report's main points. 'The operations involved counterintelligence efforts by the intelligence agency in 2003 and 2004," the statement said. "The operations were undertaken in strict accordance with Brazilian legislation and in strict defense of national interests,' it said.

"It also said the leaking of classified government documents constituted 'a serious crime, which will be investigated and prosecuted under the terms of the law.'"

While the revelation puts Brazil in an awkward position, The New York Times reports that the kind of spying detailed in this report is basic and "in sharp contrast to the sweeping international eavesdropping operations carried out by the National Security Agency."

The spying is so basic that this is how Fernando Sampaio, Russia's honorary consul in the city of Porto Alegre, reacted to the news in an interview with the Times: "Governments spy, what a surprise. I've long suspected that my phone line was tapped, and it probably still is."

In other spying news: Today, Germany summoned the British ambassador over a report that the British embassy in Berlin may be being used as a "top-secret listening post."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.