RIO DE JANEIRO — National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden wrote in a lengthy “open letter to the people of Brazil” that he has been inspired by the global debate ignited by his release of thousands of documents and that the NSA’s 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 he would 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 NSA’s spy programs were first published in Britain’s Guardian newspaper and The Washington Post in June, based on some of the thousands of documents that Snowden had handed over to the Brazil-based American journalist Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, a U.S. filmmaker.
The documents revealed that Brazil is the top NSA target in Latin America, in spying that has included the monitoring of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s cellphone and hacking into the internal network of the 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.
In his letter, Snowden dismissed U.S. explanations to the Brazilian government and others that the bulk metadata gathered on billions of e-mails 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: they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power.”
Brazilian senators have asked for Snowden’s help during hearings about the NSA’s targeting of Brazil, an important transit hub for transatlantic fiber-optic cables that are hacked. Both Greenwald and his domestic partner, David Miranda, spoke before the Brazilian Senate, and Miranda has taken up the cause of persuading the government to grant political asylum to Snowden.
Miranda said he received Snowden’s letter directly from the former NSA analyst via “secure means.”
Snowden, who is living in Russia on a temporary one-year visa, previously requested political asylum in Brazil and several other nations.
In July, Brazil’s Foreign Ministry choose not to respond to Snowden’s request, technically not denying it and therefore leaving it pending and open to approval. On Tuesday, neither Brazil’s Foreign Ministry nor the presidential office said they had immediate comment on Snowden’s letter or his asylum request.
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.