By Randall Palmer and David Ljunggren
OTTAWA, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Allegations that Canadian securityofficials spied on a Brazilian ministry give Canada "a black eyein the world," a top opposition leader said on Wednesday,putting more pressure on Prime Minister Stephen Harper toexplain the affair.
Thomas Mulcair, leader of the official opposition NewDemocrats, branded as "unacceptable" the allegations in aBrazilian media report saying the Communications SecurityEstablishment Canada (CSEC) had targeted the Brazilian mines andenergy ministry.
CSEC is the Canadian equivalent of the top-secret U.S.National Security Agency. Harper, whose Conservatives aretrailing in the polls, said on Tuesday in Indonesia that he wasvery concerned by the report.
"Actively spying on ministries and companies in othercountries to give an advantage to Canadian companies is not onlyillegal, it's irresponsible, and it gives Canada a black eye inthe world," Mulcair told a news conference.
"The Conservatives have simply shown that they have noethical boundaries of any kind ... this a huge mistake," headded, saying there was clear evidence CSEC had been complicitin industrial espionage.
CSEC chief John Forster declined to comment on Wednesdaywhen pressed repeatedly by reporters as to whether the agencyhad spied in Brazil.
Forster told a conference in Ottawa that everything CSEC didwas legal and closely scrutinized by a separate,government-appointed commissioner.
The spying allegations have soured ties with Brazil, animportant trading partner for Canada. Brazilian President DilmaRousseff on Monday demanded Canada explain what had happened.
The Globo report alleged CSEC used software called Olympiato map the Brazilian ministry's communications, includingInternet traffic, emails and telephone calls. The reportprovided no details of the alleged spying other than a slidepresented at an intelligence conference that mentioned theministry.
Harper and his aides were returning to Canada from Indonesiaon Wednesday and could not be contacted. Defence Minister RobNicholson, in overall charge of CSEC, says he cannot talk aboutnational security matters.
The allegations have raised concerns that Canada could begathering information abroad that would benefit its mining andenergy companies. The Conservative government has been a vocaladvocate for the country's resource sector.
Citing government documents obtained under access toinformation legislation, Britain's Guardian newspaper said onWednesday that CSEC and other Canadian intelligence officialshad met twice a year since 2005 with scores of Canadian energycompanies.()
Reuters has not seen all the documents, but did obtain fromthe government a redacted agenda for a "classified briefing forenergy and utilities sector stakeholders" on May 23, 2013. Theagenda stated the purpose was "to discuss national security andcriminal risks to critical energy infrastructure."
Among those briefing the industry were representatives ofthe Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Royal CanadianMounted Police and the government's Canadian Cyber IncidentResponse Centre. Topics included cyber threats and a case studyon copper theft; two other topics were blanked out.
CSEC referred queries on the report to Public SafetyMinister Stephen Blaney, who did not immediately respond to arequest for comment. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service(CSIS) - Canada's spy agency - declined to comment on themeetings.
Canadian energy and pipeline company Enbridge Inc said on Wednesday it had paid for some of the catering at theevent.
"Enbridge representatives were unable to attend that May2013 meeting. However, the purpose of the briefings is toprovide a timely and relevant summary of current security issuesthat may have an impact on Canada's critical infrastructure,"Enbridge spokesman Graham White said.
He said the goal of the sessions was to make sure theindustry is aware of potential security threats to enable it totake appropriate countermeasures "in an effort to protectcritical Canadian energy and utility operations."
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- Prime Minister Stephen Harper