Brazil admits to spying on U.S. officials

Brazilian intelligence on Monday admitted to targeting foreign officials, including top officials from the United States, in ongoing intelligence operations. 

In a statement issued Monday, officials in Brasilia admitted the country's intelligence agency, known as ABIN, has spied on top diplomats from the United States, Russia and Iran, and run counterintelligence operations against those countries for over a decade. 

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The statement issued by Brazil’s Institutional Security Cabinet, which oversees all ABIN espionage operations, claims the organization's efforts to target American and international diplomats fully complied with the country's laws governing those missions. 

"The [intelligence] operations ... obeyed the Brazilian legislation for the protection of national interests," according to a cabinet statement, first reported by The New York Times

"ABIN develops intelligence activities for the defense of the democratic rule of law, society and national sovereignty, in strict observance of constitutional principles and rights and individual guarantees," it adds. 

Monday's revelations come as Brazil, France, Germany and other American allies have hammered the Obama administration after the nations were targeted in U.S.-led intelligence operations by the National Security Agency. 

Last Tuesday, NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper denied claims the agency had conducted espionage operations against core European allies, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and others. 

Testifying before the House intelligence committee, Clapper adamantly told the panel that the NSA and the U.S. intelligence community "does not spy indiscriminately on citizens of any country," Clapper said.

"To be sure, we have made mistakes," Clapper said, but added the intelligence community has acted quickly to resolve those mistakes.

"That is what the American people want, and that is what the president has asked us to do," he added.

However, some on the committee vowed to drastically change how U.S. intelligence conducts its business, in the wake of the European espionage allegations. 

House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) vowed Tuesday to enact large-scale changes to NSA operations, which could curtail or completely rollback elements of the agency's intelligence capabilities. 

Schakowsky laid into the intelligence chiefs over the agency's European operations and lawmakers' lack of knowledge of those operations. 

"Why did we not know?" the Illinois Democrat pressed Alexander.  

"We are the Intelligence Committee, and we did not know," she added. 

That said, Alexander told members of the Intelligence panel that foreign intelligence agencies routinely hone in on U.S. officials traveling abroad. 

"Have allies launched intelligence operations against the United States' ... European allies?" panel Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) asked Alexander last Tuesday. 

In response, Alexander said flatly: "That is correct."