The United States National Security Agency (NSA) accessed the internal communications of Venezuela's state-owned oil company, PDVSA, and acquired sensitive data it planned to exploit to spy on the company's top officials, a highly classified NSA document has revealed. It shows the operation was carried out in concert with the US Embassy in Caracas.
The March 2011 document, labelled “top secret” and leaked by former NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden, was reported exclusively by a parternship between TeleSUR and The Intercept.
Drafted by an NSA signals development analyst, the document said PDVSA's network, already compromised by US intelligence, was further infiltrated after an NSA review in late 2010. This was during US President Barack Obama's first term, which would suggest he ordered or at least authorised the operation.
Most intelligence, the document said, “was coming from warranted collection,” which likely refers to communications that were intercepted as they passed across US soil.
Beyond efforts to infiltrate Venezuela's most important company, the leaked NSA document highlights the existence of a secretive joint operation between the NSA and the CIA operating out of the US embassy in Caracas. A fortress-like building just a few kilometres from PDVSA headquarters, the embassy sits on the top of a hill that gives those inside a commanding view of the Venezuelan capital.
Last year, Der Spiegel, published top-secret documents detailing the state-of-the-art surveillance equipment that the NSA and CIA deploy to embassies around the world. That intelligence on PDVSA had grown “stagnant” was concerning to the U.S. intelligence community for a number of reasons, which its powerful surveillance capabilities could help address.
“Venezuela has some of the largest oil and natural gas reserves in the world,” the NSA document states, with revenue from oil and gas accounting “for roughly one third of GDP” and “more than half of all government revenues.”
“To understand PDVSA,” the NSA analyst explains, “is to understand the economic heart of Venezuela.”
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro strongly rejected the US spying, saying his government would issue a protest and “revise our relationship with the US again.”
“US imperialism, for a long time, has wanted to sabotage our petroleum industry and defeat the Bolivarian government in order to take over Venezuela's oil,” Maduro told Venezuelan public television station VTV.
He instructed the country's foreign minister Delcy Rodriguez to meet with the US government, emphasising that no country “has the right to intervene in the affairs of other countries”. He said he wanted the minister to demand an apology from the US for their illegal actions.