TORONTO (AP) — Canada's prime minister said Tuesday he's "very concerned" about allegations that his country's spies hacked phones and computers belonging to Brazil's Mines and Energy Ministry and that Canada's ambassador is working to repair the damage.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said industrial espionage appears to be behind the alleged spying of the country's Mines and Energy Ministry. Canadian companies have large mining interest across the globe, including about 40 companies in Brazil.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canadian government officials are "reaching out very proactively" to Brazilian counterparts at the foreign ministry. Harper said he could not comment further on "national security operations."
Brazil Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo summoned the Canadian ambassador in the capital, Brasilia, and demanded explanations, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement Monday that followed the revelations that aired Sunday night on Brazil's Globo network.
The report was based on documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and was the latest case showing that Latin America's biggest nation has been a target for United States, British and now Canadian spy agencies.
The report said Canadian documents presented at an intelligence conference attended by the U.S., Canada, England, Australia and New Zealand suggest that hackers at Canada's Communications Security Establishment used specialized software to get information from phones and computers at the Ministry of Mines and Energy. It didn't indicate if emails were read or phone calls listened to.
The CSEC monitors foreign computer, satellite, radio and telephone traffic for intelligence of interest to Canada. Harper vowed to check if CSEC is following the law, nothing that there is a commissioner of the Canadian Security Establishment that does surveillance and audits the organization to make sure its operating within Canadian law.
A spokeswoman for Canada's Communications Security Establishment said the agency "does not comment on foreign intelligence gathering activities." A spokeswoman for the Canadian Defense Department also declined comment.
Michel Juneau-Katsuya, a former senior intelligence officer at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, said many countries are involved in commercial spying. He said Brazil itself was caught spying on Montreal-based plane-maker Bombardier and Pratt & Whitney, a Canadian aircraft engine manufacturer a few years ago. Jet-maker Embraer of Brazil is a competitor of Bombardier.
"It's not unusual at all. We've been doing it for a while," Juneau-Katsuya said. "They might cry today and say they are the offended person, but they don't have clean hands either."
Juneau-Katsuya countries that don't do industrial espionage are at a disadvantage.
"It's part of the game. In an ideal world we shouldn't be doing that, but if you are not doing it you are going to be left behind," he said.
Juneau-Katsuya said the Canadian government uses the information for things like trade talks.
Ray Boisvert, a former high-ranking member of Canada's spy service and the deputy director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service until last year, said it was unlikely Canada was spying on Brazil on behalf of the mining industry because Canada does not have state-owned companies.
American journalist Glenn Greenwald, based in Rio de Janeiro, worked with Globo on its report. Working for Britain's Guardian newspaper and the Washington Post, Greenwald broke the first stories about the NSA's global spy program focusing on Internet traffic and phone calls.
Globo previously reported that the communications of Rousseff herself, and also state-run oil company Petrobras, were targeted by NSA spying.
The fallout over the spy programs led Rousseff last month to cancel a planned visit to the U.S., where she was to be the guest of honor for a state dinner.
Associated Press writer Marco Sibaja in Brasilia, Brazil contributed to this report.