Photo Jonathan Blair

Friday, December 17, 2010

Brazil's spying apparatus: NOT impressive for a supposedly global power

Brazil's premier intelligence and security specialist, Joanisval Brito Gonçalves, has a fantastic piece--still only in Portuguese however--on the country's intelligence apparatus.

What Brito Gonçalves describes in a detached manner but with copious details is a poorly financed legal and institutional mess--my words, obviously. He goes through the formal mandates of the various agencies involved, as well as the legal framework that governs their activities and tells a remarkable story of overlap and inconsistencies. Most striking, however, is the stunning under financing of the whole sector: In 2010, while Germany devoted US 460 million dollars to intelligence activities, Mexico almost 130m and Argentina 120, Brazil spent only 30m dollars, which already represented a 54% increase compared to 2009 (p.11).

He explains how the intelligence apparatus still suffers from the reputation it gained under the military regime, but his only goes so far. My own hunch is that Brazil's civilian political establishment never felt the need to develop a substantial intelligence capability: with no real enemy and a diplomacy that has adroitly played its cards in the War on terror game, no real threat could justify substantial investments in this area.

Now, expect this to change, for there is a limit to what Brazil can do on the global scene with so limited an intelligence capability. And being out there, most everywhere, matters increasingly to Brazil's leaders, whatever their political stripes.