TCU approves the Army's accord with an Israeli firm: know the possible threat to the elections

Contract has Eduardo Bolsonaro’s fingerprints and was pointed out by the MPF as potentially harmful to the elections

Translated by: Flávia Chacon

Brasil de Fato | Brasília (DF) |
The case went to trial after a report by Brasil de Fato revealed a possible conflict of interest in the agreement - Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil

The Brazilian Court of Audit (Tribunal de Contas da União [TCU], in Portuguese) gave its approval to a cooperation agreement between the Army's Cyber Defense Command and the Israeli cybersecurity company CySource. The contract had been considered by the Federal Public Ministry (MPF, in the acronym in Portuguese) as a strategy to threaten the electoral process and tried to bar it.

But in a decision published last 27th, the First Chamber of the TCU decided, unanimously, to consider the MPF's case unfounded, to close the case, and to file the records. The full text of the decision is available on the Court's electronic procedural query. Click here to download.

The deputy attorney general Lucas Rocha Furtado, from the MPF, despite having submitted the lawsuit to the Court of Auditors, did not act in the trial, which paved the way for the filing of the case. The article asked Furtado's office about the matter, but there was no reply.

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The case, revealed exclusively by Brasil de Fato in May of this year, was considered by the Court after the deputy attorney general of the MPF Lucas Rocha Furtado pointed out that the agreement has indications of misuse of purpose and could put the October elections at risk.

Understand the possible threat to the electoral process

In the petition that gave rise to the lawsuit, the MPF argues that General Héber Garcia Portella, the Army's Cyber Defense Commander (ComDCiber), had already been appointed to serve on the Election Transparency Commission (CTE) when he signed the contract with the Israeli company.

"In my view, it is inadmissible that the structure of the Brazilian Army be used to cater to a whim of Jair Bolsonaro, who has insistently questioned the safety of the electronic ballot boxes and the electoral counting procedures adopted by the Superior Electoral Court," he argues.

Furtado points out that Portella has frequently "reinforced Jair Bolsonaro's discourse that the Brazilian voting system contains risks and weaknesses that could compromise the integrity of the elections.

For this reason, according to him, the agreement was concluded "not with the intention of satisfying a public purpose, but rather, in flagrant deviation of purpose, with the aim of investigating the alleged risks and weaknesses of the Brazilian voting system".

In recent days, Bolsonarists have used the agreement between the Army and CySource to argue that the military has the technical capacity to question the Brazilian electoral process. One of the publications made by a supporter of the president even went viral on Twitter.

The army is responsible for the four levels of Brazil's Cyber Defense System. General Héber Garcia, the Cyber Defense Commander, has partnered with Israeli company CySource. Do you really think they don't know where the problem is? Wake up!

In the lawsuit, the MPF also cites the disclosure of the BdF report that, on CySource's executive board, is the systems analyst Hélio Cabral Sant'ana, former director of Information Technology of the General Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic in the government of President Jair Bolsonaro (Liberal Party).

A spokesperson for CySource in the deal with the Army, Sant'Ana also has close ties to the president's son, Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro. The systems analyst owns the website domain of the Liberal Conservative Institute (ICL, in Portuguese), presided by Eduardo Bolsonaro.

Founded by the son of the head of the Executive Power, the ICL has as one of its main achievements the organization of a meeting that brings together leaders of the global extreme right. Inspired by an event that has taken place in the USA since the 1970s, CPAC has already had three editions in its Brazilian version.

Click here to access the ICL site information on the WhoIs platform, which stores information about who owns domains on the Internet. Below, read the data from ICL's National Register of Legal Entities (CNPJ, in Portuguese). To query it, click here.

Membership and Trustees of the Liberal Conservative Institute

Israeli company has militaries and Bolsonarist

In addition to having headed the information technology policies in the Presidency during the Bolsonaro administration, Hélio Cabral Sant'ana was a first lieutenant in the Army from January 2009 to March 2013.

CySource was founded by veterans of the Israeli military defense forces. After years of working with cybersecurity for military organizations, the company states that it has "the best AI-based cybersecurity education and training platform in the world".

CySource CEO Amir Bar-El, like the other founders of the company, has experience in the Israeli defense sector. He worked in the intelligence units of the Mossad, Israel's secret service. Later, he made a career in the private sector.

"Over the past few years we have established cyber security academies for various military organizations and security units around the world, which has allowed us to consolidate strategic knowledge in cyber defense," Bar-EI said in the announcement of the partnership with the Brazilian Army.

The other side: Brazilian Army denies MPF's suspicions

In a statement, the Brazilian Army denied that the contracting of the Israeli company CySource by the Cyber Defense Command is related to the October elections.

Read the Army's note about the case

The Army Communications Center informs that the National Cyber Defense College (ENaDCiber) is the Educational Establishment subordinated to the Cyber Defense Command (ComDCiber) responsible for the qualification of human resources for the Cyber Sector.

The trainings provided by ENaDCiber are obtained through courses, internships and training conducted by the School itself or through partnerships and agreements signed with national and international education networks.

In this context, a technical cooperation agreement was signed between the Union, represented by the Army Command, through the Department of Science and Technology, by means of the Cyber Defense Command, and the company CySource LTDA, for the purposes of continued training in the area of Cyber Security, as published on page 31 of Section 3 of the Brazilian federal register of April 28, 2022.

It is worth pointing out that the agreement was signed at no cost to the Union and has no connection with external events, such as elections.

Other side: CySource says Brazil has emerging needs

In a note sent to the report, the CEO of Cysource, Amir Bar-EI, also denied that the agreement is related to possible attacks on the electoral process.

Read the full statement from CySource about the case

CySource is the Israeli leader in cybersecurity training and professional services. Our security experts have trained thousands of students and workers, providing security to organizations globally against cyber attacks. We identified Brazil as a strategic market for investment due to its emerging cybersecurity needs.

CySource works to support companies in creating an outstanding cybersecurity workforce and hopes to create thousands of jobs for workers in Brazil. As part of this strategy, we have contacted several organizations in the country to present our capabilities.

CySource has signed a no-cost training cooperation agreement with the National Cyber Defense College (ENaDCiber), focusing on professional training of military personnel, unrelated to any external events such as elections. The company is one of several training organizations working with ENaDCiber. CySource will continue to work for a secure community through trust in strategic partnerships and collaborations.

Edited by: Rodrigo Durão Coelho