Snowden offers to help Brazil investigate NSA spying
BRASLIA - Agence France-Presse
This June 9, 2013 file photo provided by The Guardian Newspaper in London shows National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, in Hong Kong. AP PhotoUS intelligence leaker Edward Snowden offered to help Brazil defeat US spying Tuesday but in an open letter said he needs permanent political asylum to do so.
The move was widely interpreted as a request for asylum in Brazil, including by the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper which published the letter in both English and Portuguese.
Snowden, by downloading a vast trove of classified documents while working as an intelligence contractor for the NSA, has revealed a vast NSA program that culls information from telephone calls and emails around the world, including in Brazil.
In the letter, he writes that US officials justify the actions by saying they aim "to keep you safe." But he says "these programs were never about terrorism: they're about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They're about power." Now, he insists, "the tide is turning." "Now, the whole world is listening back, and speaking out, too." "The culture of indiscriminate worldwide surveillance, exposed to public debates and real investigations on every continent, is collapsing." Snowden avoids directly requesting asylum from Brazil in the letter, but he notes that Brazilian senators "have asked for my assistance with their investigations of suspected crimes against Brazilian citizens." Snowden says he is willing to help "wherever appropriate and lawful," but "unfortunately the United States government has worked very hard to limit my ability to do so." "Until a country grants permanent political asylum, the US government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak," he says.
Folha said his goal is in fact to come to Brazil. Glenn Greenwald, who has written about many of the documents released by Snowden, is based in Brazil. Brazil has a long tradition of granting asylum.
In the letter to Brazilians, Snowden praises the Latin American country's fierce reaction to news it was among those the NSA spied on. President Dilma Rousseff canceled a visit to Washington in October after learning of it and helped sponsor a UN resolution aimed at protecting "online" human rights.
Rousseff's cell phone was monitored by the US surveillance program, as were the state oil company Petrobras and everyday Brazilian citizens.
Snowden's apparent bid for Brazil asylum was quickly supported by rights group Avaaz, among others. "Snowden is now trapped alone in Russia on a short term visa. Brazil could offer him the hero's welcome he deserves," Avaaz director Michael Mohallem said in a statement seen by AFP.