Brazil: Dilma proposes new internet laws after NSA spying

Dilma NSA spying

New data laws proposed amid NSA spying allegations; Vale accused of spying on social movements; Vote for mensalão case to receive appeal

Dilma NSA spying

Brazil: Dilma proposes new internet laws after NSA spying

As further evidence of the backlash caused by allegations that the US National Security Agency (NSA) spied on President Dilma Rousseff and other members of government, Rousseff has announced backing for legislation that would force internet companies to store data collected locally within the country.

The proposal follows a series of media reports based on documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

At present, internet companies are free to store data wherever they please. However, the new legislation would obligate foreign-based internet companies such as Google, Facebook, and other major online companies to maintain data centres inside Brazil which would then be subject to Brazilian privacy laws.

Despite these plans, many believe the legislation could be extremely difficult to implement, given the potential high costs and the global nature of the internet. However, Rousseff believes that a review of data protection laws could shield Brazilians from further U.S. prying, and is said to be considering urging other countries to take similar measures when she speaks at the United Nations General Assembly later this month.

Rousseff has already threatened to cancel a trip to the U.S. scheduled for 23 October after a series of media reports based on documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA monitored Rousseff’s communications.

The situation has further intensified since reports surfaced that the US agency also spied on Brazil’s largest oil company, Petrobras, which if true,  would be tantamount to industrial espionage and therefore have no security justification, Rousseff has argued.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo met with US President Barack Obama on Wednesday to discuss the allegations. Obama is said to have pledged to take direct responsibility for the investigation into the spying allegations, and vowed to address all of Brazil’s concerns.

Vale accused of spying on social movements 

Brazilian mining company Vale S.A has been accused of espionage into the activities of social movements opposing its mining operations in regions across the country.

According to documents passed to the Federal Prosecution Office (FPO) earlier this year, the company is accused of spying on organisations that had been working to highlight the high level of environmental damage inflicted by the mining and steel industries in the country.

Some of the movements targeted were listed as Justiça nos Trilhos  (Justice on Rails – JT) and Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (Landless Workers Movement – MST).

Vale is said to have paid a number of individuals to infiltrate the organisations and to monitor trade unionists, environmentalists and journalists since 2008. It is also alleged that two agents of the Brazilian Intelligence Agency (Agência Brasileira de Inteligência – ABIN), both of whom were also ex-military personnel, were hired by the company to conduct the activities.

Having conducted many demonstrations against the company the MST appears to have been the main concern for Vale, alongside the JT which brings together various organizations defending the human rights of the population affected by the activities of the oil giant.

A report released in 2011 by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Justiça Global and JT investigating the company had previously accused the company of working in collaboration with public bodies in actions that have been described as the ‘criminalisation of those who are working to defend the rights of people who are affected by the company’s operations.’

Vote for mensalão case to receive appeal

Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court (STF) voted on the possible revision of up to twelve of its sentences given to those involved in the mensalão vote-buying scheme. However, the judgment ended in a five-to-five tie, leaving the final verdict up to dean of the court, Justice Celso de Mello, who is set to make a decision on Wednesday 18 September.

If allowed, the appeal would result in a retrial for the mensalão verdicts that received at least four votes of absolution in their original judgment in 2012.

The decision affects at least 12 defendants sentenced in last years’ trial including João Paulo Cunha, João Claudio Genu and Breno Fischberg all convicted of money laundering, as well as Former Minister and Congressman José Dirceu de Oliveira e Silva, who was sentenced to 10 years in jail for orchestrating the infamous scheme.

The decision will face much scrutiny in Brazil, particularly given that one of the major complaints voiced in recent protests was the high government corruption levels and impunity.

Since August 2011, twenty-five people have been convicted on charges relating to the case, which is the biggest political corruption case in Brazilian history. They convictions are seen as a positive step towards ‘cleaner’ and more transparent governance in the country.