RIO DE JANEIRO – National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden wrote in a lengthy open letter to the people of Brazil that hes been inspired by the global debate ignited by his release of thousands of NSA documents and that the agencys culture of indiscriminate global espionage is collapsing.
In the letter, Snowden commended the Brazilian government for its strong stand against U.S. spying.
He wrote that hed be willing to help the South American nation investigate NSA spying on its soil but could not fully participate in doing so without being granted political asylum, because the U.S. government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak.
Revelations about the NSAs spy programs were first published in the Guardian and the Washington Post newspapers in June, based on some of the thousands of documents Snowden handed over to Barton Gellman at the Post and to Brazil-based American journalist Glenn Greenwald and his reporting partner, Laura Poitras, a U.S. filmmaker.
The documents revealed that Brazil is the top NSA target in Latin America, with spying that has included the monitoring of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseffs cellphone and hacking into the internal network of state-run oil company Petrobras.
The revelations enraged Rousseff, who in October canceled an official visit to Washington that was to include a state dinner. Shes also pushing the United Nations to give citizens more protections against spying.
In his letter, Snowden dismissed U.S. explanations to the Brazilian government and others that the bulk of information gathered about billions of emails and calls was more data collection than 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: theyre about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. Theyre about power.
Brazilian senators have asked for Snowdens help during hearings about the NSAs targeting of Brazil, an important transit hub for trans-Atlantic fiber-optic cables that are hacked.
Both Greenwald and his domestic partner, David Miranda, spoke before the Senate, and Miranda has taken up the cause of persuading the Brazilian government to grant political asylum to Snowden.
Brazil is a big, strong country, I think one of the few nations in the world that could offer asylum to Edward Snowden, Miranda said in a phone interview. Hes helped so many nations, and I think mine like all others that have sworn to defend human rights should step forward to help him now.
Miranda said he received Snowdens letter directly from the former NSA analyst. Snowden lives in Russia on a temporary one-year visa.
He just wants to continue the work that he began six months ago, Miranda said.
Snowden cant participate in the debate thats happening now because Russia doesnt allow him to take part, Miranda said. But if he were to be given permanent asylum, particularly here in Brazil ... I think he can help the entire world and Brazil understand the situation.
U.S. officials have remained steadfast in their stance on Snowden, accusing him of leaking classified information and saying he should face felony charges in American courts.