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Espionage Whistleblower Edward Snowden to Seek Asylum in Brazil

12/17/2013 - 08h29

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FÁBIO ZANINI
"WORLD" EDITOR

US espionage whistleblower Edward Snowden has promised to cooperate with investigations into the actions of the National Security Agency (NSA) in Brazil. In order to do so, he wants political asylum from Dilma Rousseff's government in return.

Read: An Open Letter to the People of Brazil

The promise of help is in an "open letter to the people of Brazil" obtained by Folha that will be sent to authorities and will be part of an online campaign, hosted on the site of NGO Avaaz, which specializes in petitions.

The idea is to talk Dilma into providing shelter for Snowden, a former intelligence agent of the American government.

"Many Brazilian senators have asked my help with their investigations into suspected crimes against Brazilian citizens. I expressed my willingness to assist, where it is appropriate and legal, but unfortunately the US government has been working very hard to limit my ability to do so," said the letter.

Snowden was referring to an open PCI in the Senate to investigate the activities of the NSA in Brazil, which included monitoring the phone calls and emails of both Dilma and Petrobras.

According to him, it was not possible to collaborate because of his precarious legal situation and with only temporary asylum granted by Russia until mid-2014.

"Until a country grants permanent asylum, the US government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak," Snowden said in the letter.

The former NSA agent, who has been in Russia since June, claimed his movements have been very limited there and said he was left without conditions to truly debate the scandal, according to Glenn Greenwald, the journalist to whom he leaked the data.

In Brazil, with permanent asylum status, he would have more liberty to do so.

Snowden takes care, in the letter, not to directly address Dilma. The reason is to not offend the Russian government, who is currently hosting him. But, also according to Greenwald, he wants to come to Brazil.

In June, Snowden revealed to the journalist, who worked at British newspaper "The Guardian" at the time, documents showing the ability of the US government to spy on citizens and businesses in several countries.

"Today, if you carry a cell phone in São Paulo, the NSA can track where you are, and does. [...] When a person in Florianopolis visits a website, the NSA keeps a record of when it happened and what you did on that site. If a mother in Porto Alegre calls her son to wish him luck on an exam, the NSA can save the recording of the call for five years or longer," he said in the letter.

According to Snowden, unlimited surveillance "threatens to become the biggest human rights challenge of our times."

"The NSA and other allied intelligence agencies tell us that, for the sake of our own 'safety' - in the name of Dilma's 'safety' in the name of Petrobras's 'safety' - they revoked our right to privacy and invaded our lives. And they did not ask permission of the people from any country, not even their own," he said in another passage of the letter.

STATELESS

Greenwald, who lives in Rio, and his boyfriend, Brazilian David Miranda, intend to lead a campaign for Rousseff to grant Snowden asylum.

After arriving in Russia, Snowden sent asylum requests to several countries, including Brazil. He got not response.

Who responded favorably were Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua, but Snowden prefers Brazil.

"Brazil is the ideal place because it is a politically strong country where the revelations had a real impact," said Miranda. The legal argument to convince Brazilian authorities is that Snowden's human rights are being threatened.

"If the Brazilian government thanks him for the revelations, it is only logical it protects him," said Greenwald.

Brazil, Snowden recalled in the letter, coauthored, along with Germany, the resolution text approved by a commission of the UN General Assembly, which associated the impact of the espionage with violations of human rights.

"Our rights cannot be limited by a secret organization, and American officials should never decide on the freedoms of Brazilian citizens," he said.

Snowden noted that the decision to reveal to the world the espionage scheme cost him his family, his home and put his life at risk.

"The price of my speech was my passport, but I would pay again. I prefer to be stateless rather than lose my voice," he said.

Translated by JILL LANGLOIS

Read the article in the original language

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Ewen MacAskill/Reuters
In an "open letter" Snowden says that he would help Brazil's government investigate US spying if granted political asylum
In an "open letter" Snowden says that he would help Brazil's government investigate US spying if granted political asylum