BOGOTA, Colombia — A Brazilian newspaper on Tuesday published an article it said is based on documents provided by the former American contractor Edward Snowden asserting that the United States has been collecting data on telephone calls and e-mails from several countries in Latin America, including important allies such as Brazil, Colombia and Mexico.
The paper, O Globo, based in Rio de Janeiro, says the documents show the National Security Agency amassed military and security data on countries such as Venezuela, an American adversary that has been accused of aiding Colombia’s Marxist rebels and maintaining close ties with Iran. But the documents also show that the agency carried out surveillance operations to unearth inside commercial information on the oil industry in Venezuela and the energy sector in Mexico, which is under state control and essentially closed to foreign investment.
U.S. officials have declined to address issues about intelligence gathering or the O Globo report, except to issue a statement saying that “we have been clear that the United States does gather foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations.”
The report on Tuesday came after O Globo on Sunday published a story contending that Brazil is a major target of the NSA’s international effort to monitor telecommunications. The newspaper said that in gathering data in Brazil, the NSA counted on the collaboration of American and Brazilian telecommunications companies, though O Globo did not name them.
The revelations of the American agency’s operations across a swath of Latin America coincided with news from Russia about where Snowden, who is believed to be at the Moscow airport, may be headed. A leading Russian lawmaker, Alexei Pushkov, said on Tuesday via his Twitter account that Snowden, who had been a contractor for the NSA, had accepted the offer of asylum that Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro had made on Friday.
Neither Venezuela nor Russia’s government confirmed Pushkov’s announcement, and minutes after Pushkov issued his initial message it had been erased from his Twitter feed. Though Pushkov, head of the foreign affairs committee of the lower house of the Russian parliament, has provided insights into the Kremlin’s thinking on Snowden, his messages on Tuesday left little clarity about exactly what Snowden had decided.
Snowden’s revelations show that the NSA has been gathering countless data from the phone records of Americans and Internet usage abroad. The information does not include the content of phone calls or e-mail messages but what is called “metadata” — records of addresses, the time when e-mails are sent and other information that can reveal important patterns to intelligence officials.
In the Brazilian capital, Brasilia, Communications Minister Paulo Bernardo told reporters that Thomas Shannon, the U.S. ambassador to Brazil, denied in a meeting that the United States carries out surveillance operations on Brazilian communications. Shannon also told Bernardo that the United States is not working with Brazilian telecom operators.