France, Germany And Brazil Have Surveillance Agencies Too


France’s Le Monde newspaper on Saturday published the latest of the revelations to come from the stolen trove of documents detailing the National Security Agency’s broad surveillance reach within other countries. President Francois Hollande’s government has responded by summoning U.S. Ambassador Charles Rivkin to explain the United States’ actions. France’s Minister of the Interior Manuel Valls has already called the fact that the NSA, according to Le Monde, collected 70.3 million pieces of French telephone data in the span of a month “shocking.”

France is the latest U.S. ally to show its displeasure with the NSA’s tactics, joining others such as Germany and Brazil. What these official condemnations fail to mention, however, is the fact that each of these countries is currently engaging in their own rounds of espionage — both abroad and at home. The following is a look at some of the work of these spy agencies:


“These kinds of practices between partners, that violate privacy, are totally unacceptable,” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters at an E.U. foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Monday. “We must quickly assure that these practices aren’t repeated.” Just months ago, however, France was called out in Le Monde’s very pages for collecting the same sort of data that the U.S. has been, but against its own citizens and with less legal authority. France’s General Directorate for External Security (DGSE), according to the report, works to gather nearly all data transmissions that come in and out of France.

Le Monde described the effort as “a-legal,” without clear guidelines on how it operates within the law, describing it as running at “complete discretion, at the margins of legality and outside all serious control.” The DSGE has historically proven to be extremely adept at logging as much information as possible against foreign groups. In the 1990s, France was infamous for its practices against American businesses in particularly, even going so far as allegedly bugging Air France seats.


Earlier in the summer, Germany also made clear its ire at being the target of NSA spying. Some of the earliest documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden showed that the U.S. and United Kingdom spied on other members of the Group of 20 when they last met in London. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was reported in June to be preparing to confront President Obama over the issue. The public furor only grew after German magazine Der Spiegel went into further detail about the NSA’s activities in Europe, particularly its targeting of German communications.

Embarrassingly enough for Merkel, however, soon after it was revealed that the German Federal Intelligence Service, also known as the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) also benefited from the NSA’s data. “NSA also has held several multilateral technical meetings with BND…to improve the [Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution]’s ability to exploit, filter, and process domestic data accesses and potentially develop larger collection access points that could benefit both Germany and the U.S,” according to documents on the matter. German newspaper Deustche Welle reports that the BND is also “legally allowed to rifle through up to 20 percent of the communication between Germany and other countries, and monitor certain Internet search terms.” The BND also collects information above and beyond that authority; in 2011 the German government was accused of spying on citizens using a trojan horse backdoor into computers known as R2D2.


Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff has proven herself one of the most vocal critics of the National Security Agency’s actions, after reports that her own emails were being read. Brasilia in turn cancelled a visit to the U.S. that would have included a state dinner in Rousseff’s honor and slamming Obama at the United Nations only minutes before he addressed the world body. As a result, the Brazilian government is considering proposals that would require foreign businesses to keep their servers in Brazil if they want to operate within the country.

Fitting the trend among other states, Brazil maintains its own formidable intelligence agency, with a history of spying both foreign and domestic. Agência Brasileira de Inteligência (ABIN) got into trouble several years ago for its wiretapping of Brazilian senators and Supreme court members, resulting in the suspension of the agency’s head. Likewise, in 2000, ABIN’s director was fired for spying on groups such as Greenpeace and Monsanto alike. More recently, ABIN also reportedly launched its own version of the NSA’s practices to access private companies’ data related to its citizens, working directly with these companies and gathering metadata in realtime.