BRASLIA, Brazil – Fugitive US whistleblower Edward Snowden has written to the people of Brazil offering conditional help in investigating allegation of spying by America’s National Security Agency (NSA) in return for a possible political asylum.
An “open letter” written by Snowden was published Tuesday by Brazil’s Folha de S Paulo newspaper in which the former NSA contractor has alleged that the US government was limiting his ability to assist Brasilia in investigating how the American secret surveillance was spying on their leaders.
“I have expressed my willingness to assist wherever appropriate and lawful, but unfortunately the United States government has worked very hard to limit my ability to do so — going so far as to force down the Presidential Plane of Evo Morales to prevent me from traveling to Latin America!”
The full text of the letter was made available online at: http://www1.folha.uol.com.br/internacional/en/world/2013/12/1386296-an-open-letter-to-the-people-of-brazil.shtml.
“Until a country grants permanent political asylum, the US government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak,” it said.
Snowden has leaked secret information on how the US government was targeting internet and telecommunications worldwide and monitoring mobile phones of world leaders including Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.
He is currently living in Russia where he has been granted a temporary asylum until the next summer.
Snowden said he had in particularly been impressed by the Brazilian government’s defiant approach in criticising the NSA’s alleged spy programme.
“Only three weeks ago, Brazil led the United Nations Human Rights Committee to recognize for the first time in history that privacy does not stop where the digital network starts, and that the mass surveillance of innocents is a violation of human rights,” said Snowden, who is wanted in the US.
“The tide has turned, and we can finally see a future where we can enjoy security without sacrificing our privacy. Our rights cannot be limited by a secret organization, and American officials should never decide the freedoms of Brazilian citizens.”
The Brazilian president has been one of the most vocal critics of the spying. In September she launched a blistering attack on US espionage at the UN general assembly, with Barack Obama waiting in the wings to speak next.
Snowden has cited Brazilian examples to explain how US surveillance has made people all over the world vulnerable to American spying.
“Today, if you carry a cell phone in Sao Paolo, the NSA can and does keep track of your location: they do this 5 billion times a day to people around the world.
“When someone in Florianopolis visits a website, the NSA keeps a record of when it happened and what you did there. If a mother in Porto Alegre calls her son to wish him luck on his university exam, NSA can keep that call log for five years or more.”
Snowden in his letter dismissed US explanations to the Brazilian government and others that the bulk metadata gathered on billions of emails and calls was more “data collection” and not surveillance.
“There is a huge difference between legal programs, legitimate spying and these programs of dragnet mass surveillance that put entire populations under an all-seeing eye and save copies forever,” he wrote.
“These programs were never about terrorism: they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power.”
“Six months ago, I revealed that the NSA wanted to listen to the whole world. Now, the whole world is listening back, and speaking out, too. And the NSA doesn’t like what it is hearing.”
The letter comes a day after a US district judge ruled that the NSA’s bulk collection of millions of Americans’ telephone records likely violates the American constitution’s ban on unreasonable search.
The case is likely to go to the Supreme Court for a final decision.