A Federal police recommended to Superior Electoral Court (TSE) that Abin (Brazilian Intelligence Agency), linked to the federal government and the GSI (Institutional Security Office), would assume the security of transmission of computed votes by the electronic ballot box. In the same document in which it defended the change, the PF also advocated for adoption of the printed vote.
PF defends Abin’s participation
According to Folha de São Paulo, the PF report with recommendations to the TSE was sent on September 22 to the Senate by the director general of the body, Paulo Maiurino. Five days later, excerpts from the document were publicly revealed in a session by senator Esperadião Amim (PP-SC), who chaired a thematic debate on the counting of votes in the elections.
The report, however, was prepared on the day October 3, 2018, four days before the first round of the 2018 presidential election, and four months after a Supreme Court injunction (STF) render null and void the electoral reform ordinance that provided for the printing of the vote. The document, signed by three federal experts, asks the TSE to “make every effort to ensure that the printed vote may exist for auditing purposes”.
Since 2019, the head of Abin is the Federal Police Chief Alexandre Ramagem, personal friend of the Bolsonaro family. In 2020, the president even published in the Official Gazette of the Union (DOU) the name of Ramagem to assume the position of general director of the PF, but the appointment was suspended by the STF minister, Alexandre de Moraes.
Amim obtained a partial copy of the document prepared by the PF, with black stripes covering information considered confidential by the federal agency. According to the senator, not even the TREs (Regional Electoral Court) had access to the report. For the congressman, the transfer of the security processes and transmission of votes captured by the electronic ballot box to Abin would make the electoral process “white plate”.
The document was debated in the Senate session, but without the presence of the PF director general. Maiurino was actually represented by the director of Combating Organized Crime of the Federal Police, delegate Luís Flávio Zampronha. When asked by Amim about the report, Zampronha said:
“This is an opinionated document. It does not have the power to bind the new measures adopted by the TSE. We did not receive feedback from the TSE on which recommendations were met.”
TSE says it did not adopt measures suggested by the PF
Waiting Amin was willing to release the confidential document in full. But the assistant to the TSE Presidency, Sandro Nunes Vieira, undertook to send a copy of the PF report to the College of Presidents of the TREs (Coptrel).
“Since the document was placed confidential, we sent it to all those presidents who asked for a copy. But we don’t ship it in advance. The process is confidential, and we are not going to be offering copies to people”, justified the TSE assistant.
At Court, the PF report was poorly received. The recommendations are ignored by the court, because complying with them would mean giving up electoral attributions essential to the work and functioning of elections.
Sandro Nunes Vieira also stated in a Senate session that the TSE outsources all the coordination, intelligence and development, testing and approval of the electronic voting system to Modulo. In response to the PF delegate, the court clerk mentioned that the decision to allocate these efforts to any other entity belongs to the TSE:
“The PF said that [o serviço de segurança relacionado aos resultados extraídos da urna] should leave the company. The leading role belongs to the TSE. This is the answer to the PF’s recommendation.”
The work of the TSE on the safety of the results of the ballot boxes with Modulo is coordinated by public servants, according to Vieira. The PF’s recommendations were not accepted by the TSE.
Experts say vote submission system is secure
Despite the partial version made public by the senator, the sheet obtained the document in its entirety and without the black bars on sections classified by the PF. The content hidden in the document sent to the Senate refers to four main items: transport of counted votes, voting systems, totalization and development environment.
In one of the excerpts, the PF commented on the security of the platform that sends votes from electronic voting machines to the TREs. The police defends the transfer of this security mechanism to Abin, which is the responsibility of the Module, even without the analysis of the source code of the urn. This device has already been the target of attacks by Bolsonaro, who argues that the code was targeted by hackers to defraud the 2018 elections, which he said was won by his ticket in the first round.
Regarding the transport of votes, the three experts of the PF say that the SIS – the security platform for sending votes to TREs – was not analyzed by federal criminal experts, who did not obtain details about the mechanism, responsible for the “cryptography and network communication that transport performs”, quotes one of the hidden passages.
In the same stretch, the PF also highlights that “because it is a system considered sensitive, we recommend that all the development and maintenance of this technology be carried out by the TSE, even if for this there must be a technological transfer”.
However, in the 13th recommendation made in the report, which was not covered by the black stripes when sent to the Senate, the PF defends that the system for sending votes computed from the ballot boxes to the TREs should migrate from the company outsourced by the TSE to Abin. The police’s argument in the report is precisely the sensitive nature of the information “managed by the aforementioned company”. There is also the defense that, no matter how qualified Modulo is to fulfill its contract, this function can be transferred to the federal government’s intelligence agency, through an information transfer contract.
Despite defending the transfer to Abin, other parties hidden in the report reveal that the PF believes in the security of the electronic voting system. In an observation about the digital signature of the process, the agency’s experts point out that there are no threats to the “integrity and confidentiality of the transmitted data”.
Also according to police members, the keys linked to the transmission of data to the TREs are “correctly checked” and that the “secrecy and integrity” of this process is also present. Experts believe that the system responsible for transmitting election votes is a “very robust model”.
The model for transmitting voting data was changed in 2020. Last year, it was decided by the TSE that the dissemination of voting results to senator, governor, federal and state deputy would be centralized in Brasilia. The change was made based on Federal Police recommendations and took effect during the first round of the 2020 elections.
TRE representatives are critical of the TSE measure, because in addition to removing one of the main attributions of the Electoral Courts of the states, the new rule would have been responsible for the delay in the counting of votes last year.
In a report, the PF defends the adoption of the printed vote
The Senate session on September 27 was precisely to debate the TSE measure. In a statement made during the event, the judge and president of the Santa Catarina TRE, Fernando Carione, says that the totalization of the vote count in Brasília caused what he called “procedural bottleneck” and left the electoral justice of the states “at the mercy of the operating times of the TSE”.
“The private legal competence of the TREs to complete the final results of the elections is unquestionable”, says the magistrate. “I do not think it is possible for the TSE, whether through technical guidelines or even a resolution or normative instruction, to modify the provisions contained in the Electoral Code without violating the Constitution,” he added.
The judge and assistant of the TSE Presidency admitted that the delay of 3 hours in totaling the photos, which caused delays in the dissemination of the results, was due to a “problem of a technical nature”. However, the “mishap” in a computer of the private company hired to perform the service was corrected for the second round, according to Vieira.
carione too questioned the confidentiality of the Federal Police report sent to the Senate. Another point defended by the PF in the document is a greater participation of the police in the source code compilation process. THE entity also defended the thesis of the printed vote, even claiming that there are no means of breaching security in the transport of votes.
In August, the Chamber of Deputies imposed a defeat on the Bolsonaro government, when it dropped the PEC (Proposal for Amendment to the Constitution) from the printed vote. The general director of Abin, Alexandre Ramagem, defended the proposal in a post on social networks, in which he called for what he considers to be the “audible vote”.
With information: Folha de S.Paulo and Agência Senado