US electronic spying targets Colombia, Venezuela: Report

US electronic espionage operations have targeted a variety of Latin American countries besides regional heavyweight Brazil.

Updated: Jul 10, 2013, 00:17 AM IST

Brasília: US electronic espionage operations have targeted a variety of Latin American countries besides regional heavyweight Brazil, including key Washington ally Colombia and its nemesis Venezuela, a Brazilian newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The report in O Globo was the latest in a series on US electronic surveillance operations based on documents leaked by fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

"Colombia was the second target of espionage over the past five years after Brazil and Mexico in the activities of the (US) National Security Agency," the daily said.

Through its so-called PRISM Internet surveillance program, the NSA "lifted data on oil and military purchases in Venezuela, energy and drugs in Mexico, in addition to mapping the movements of the (leftist) Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia," it said.

Under the PRISM program, the NSA can issue directives to Internet firms like Google and Facebook to gain access to e-mails, online chats, pictures, files and videos uploaded by foreign users.

The documents showed "steady data collection in Colombia between 2008 and the first quarter of this year," O Globo said.

The data include telephone calls, e-mails and satellite intercepts, it added.

Washington has been helping Bogota combat drug trafficking and illegal armed groups through Plan Colombia, a military cooperation program under which Colombia has received more than USD 8 billion since 2000.

Despite its tense relations with leftist Venezuela, the United States buys some 900,000 barrels of oil a day from Caracas.

"In March of this year, Colombia became as much a priority as Brazil for the NSA. That`s when Hugo Chavez died. It marked the end of Chavismo (populist ideology) and the beginning of another political game in South America," O Globo said.

Other countries targeted by the NSA, albeit on a smaller scale, were Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Paraguay, Chile, Peru and El Salvador, it added.

Yesterday, the newspaper reported that Washington maintained a base in Brasilia, jointly operated by the NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency at least until 2002, to intercept satellite communications.

It said the Brasilia facility was part of a network of 16 "Primary Fornsat Collection Operations" maintained by the NSA around the world to intercept transmissions from foreign satellites.