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Bill Clinton condemns NSA’s reported collection of economic data

FILE - This July 17, 2013 file photo shows former President Bill Clinton speaking in Washington. President Barack Obama will bestow the nation’s highest civilian honor on Oprah Winfrey and former President Bill Clinton later this year. Clinton and Winfrey will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom at the White House along with 14 others, including former Sen. Richard Lugar and women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File) (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

Former president Bill Clinton in a new interview condemns the National Security Agency's reported collection of industrial data as part of its surveillance programs.

Reports based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden have shown that the NSA collected financial data from the network of Brazil's state-run oil company, Petrobras. Clinton is in Brazil this week.

"We shouldn't have gathered economic intelligence under the guise of security -- not with an ally," Clinton told O Globo, a newspaper in Rio de Janeiro.

Clinton is in Rio for the Clinton Global Initiative, which is bringing together business and political leaders from South America.

Clinton has previously said that he had "serious reservations" about the idea of spying on leaders of foreign countries —  something that has also reportedly happened in Brazil, along with other countries — and that the revelations have had a damaging effect on the United States.

The NSA's reported snooping on Petrobras was first reported by the Globo TV Network in September and was based on documents provided by Snowden to the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald, who is based out of Rio.

It was not clear why the NSA targeted the oil company or two other organizations named in the documents -- Google and the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a European money-transfer cooperative.

At the time of the initial report, James Clapper, the director of U.S. national intelligence, did not deny spying on multinational companies but said it is only done for national security reasons.

“What we do not do, as we have said many times, is use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies,” Clapper said.

Shortly after O Globo's report went live Monday morning, the Clinton Global Initiative Twitter account posted this photo of Clinton and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff.

Updated at 3:50 p.m. Scott Wilson contributed to this report. The updated version features Clinton's actual quote, before the Portugese translation that appears in O Globo's story.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.



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Scott Wilson · December 9, 2013

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