Skip to main content

Brazil denied Edward Snowden asylum: Now they might need his help

National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden has written an open letter to the people of Brazil, offering to help the country's authorities investigate the widespread mass-surveillance techniques of American intelligence agencies.

The letter, published in Brazilian daily Folha de S. Paulo, calls on the Brazilian people to support its government in investigating the abuses of the US three-letter agency, and to "band together against injustices and in defense of privacy and basic human rights."

Snowden credited Brazil with being "inspiring" to him during his exile, and commended their efforts to shine greater light on the NSA's spying programmes.

"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," Snowden wrote.

Brazil has been particularly affected by the revelations released by Snowden, as its private citizens, corporations, high-up politicians and even its President have all been shown to be the targets of deregulated surveillance, along with the President of Mexico.

In September, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff called off a planned trip to the US after allegations that the NSA had intercepted her emails and those of her close personal aides, as well as that of the Brazilian national oil company, Petrobras. She later decried the practice in a blistering speech in the UN General Assembly.

Snowden argued in his letter to Folha de S. Paulo that "American officials should never decide the freedoms of Brazilian citizens."

"When someone in Florianopolis visits a website, the NSA keeps a record of when it happened and what you did there," he wrote. "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 applied for asylum in Brazil when fleeing Hong Kong in June. It became clear that his asylum request would be rejected at the start of July, although it was never officially replied to.

While journalist Glenn Greenwald has made it clear that this is not a re-application for asylum, the letter certainly puts those cards on the table.

"Until a country grants permanent political asylum, the US government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak," Snowden wrote. "The tide has turned, and we can finally see a future where we can enjoy security without sacrificing our privacy."

Brazil isn't the only country to show interest in enlisting Snowden into its investigations. At the start of November, Snowden met with German MP Hans-Christian Stroebele, of the Green Party (Die Grünen), in Moscow. During that meeting he offered his services to German authorities.

The meeting led German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich to say: "If the message is that Mr Snowden wants to give us information then we'll gladly accept that."

Snowden ended his letter by arguing: "I don't want to live in a world where everything that I say, everything I do, everyone I talk to, every expression of creativity or love or friendship is recorded. That's not something I'm willing to support, it's not something I'm willing to build, and it's not something I'm willing to live under."

So no formal asylum application yet - but with the Russian winter really starting to set in, the balmy coasts of Brazil must be looking pretty tempting.

Image: Flickr (ekvidi)