Snowden has offered to help Brazil investigate US spying on its soil in exchange for political
asylum, in an open letter from the NSA whistleblower to the
Brazilian people published by the Folha de S Paulo newspaper.
"I've expressed my willingness to assist where it's appropriate and legal,
but, unfortunately, the US government has been working hard to limit my ability
to do so," Snowden said in the letterwrote.
"Until a country grants me permanent political asylum, the US government will
continue to interfere with my ability to speak out."
Senator Ricardo Ferrão, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee,
said on Twitter: "Brazil should not miss the opportunity to grant asylum to
Edward Snowden, who was key to unravelling the US espionage system."
Fellow committee member Senator Eduardo Suplicy said: "The Brazilian
government should grant him asylum and the US government must understand that
the NSA violated rights
protected in Brazil's constitution."
But a spokesman for the foreign ministry said it was not considering
Snowden's appeal, because it had not yet received a formal asylum request.
In his letter, Snowden currently living in Russia, where he has been
granted a year's asylum until next summer said he had been impressed by the
Brazilian government's strong criticism of the spy programme targeting internet and
telecommunications worldwide, including monitoring the mobile phone of the
Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff.
Revelations of US spying have stirred outrage in Brazil. Leaked documents
have shown that the spied on
Rousseff's emails and phone calls, tapped the communications
of Brazil's biggest oil company, Petrobras, and monitored those of millions
Rousseff has been one of the most vocal critics of the spying revealed by
Snowden. In September she launched a blistering attack on US
espionage at the UN general assembly, with Barack Obama waiting in the wings
to speak next.
The following month, she cancelled a visit to Washington that was to include
a state dinner, and she has joined Germany in pushing for the UN to adopt a
symbolic resolution that seeks to extend personal privacy rights to all
Rousseff has also ordered her government to take measures including laying
fibre-optic lines directly to Europe and South American nations in an effort to
"divorce" Brazil from the US-centric backbone of the internet that experts say
has facilitated spying.
Brazilian senators have asked for Snowden's help during hearings about the
programme's aggressive targeting of
Brazil, an important transit hub for transatlantic fibre-optic cables.
In his letter, Snowden used Brazilian examples to explain the extent of the
US surveillance he had revealed. "Today, if you carry a cellphone in São Paulo,
the can track where you are, and it does
it does so 5bn times a day worldwide.
"When a person in Florianópolis visits a website, the keeps track of when it happened and what
they did on that site. If a mother in Porto Alegre calls her son to wish him
luck with his exam, the NSA can save the data for five years or longer. The
agency can keep records of who has an affair or visits porn sites, in case it
needs to damage the reputations of its targets."
He added: "Six months ago, I revealed that the wanted to
listen to the whole world. Now the whole world is listening, and also talking
back. And the NSA does not like what it is hearing."
Snowden's offer comes a day after the White House dashed hopes that the US
might be considering an amnesty for the whistleblower, insisting he should still
return to the US to stand trial.
Asked about weekend comments by senior official
Richard Ledgett suggesting that an amnesty was "worth talking about" if Snowden
returned the missing NSA documents, White House spokesman Jay Carney said: "Our
position has not changed on that matter at all. He [Ledgett] was expressing
his personal opinion; these decisions are made by the Department of
Also on Monday a US district judge ruled that the NSA's
bulk collection of millions of Americans' telephone records probably violates
the US constitution's ban on unreasonable search. The case is likely to go
all the way the supreme court for a final decision. Snowden responded to that
decision with a public statement that said: "Today, a secret programme
authorised by a secret court was, when exposed to the light of day, found to
violate Americans' rights. It is the first of many."
The Guardian first published accounts of the NSA's spy
programmes in June, based on some of the thousands of documents Snowden
handed over to the Brazil-based American journalist Glenn Greenwald and his
reporting partner Laura Poitras, a US filmmaker.
Following the publication of Snowden's letter, David Miranda, the
partner of former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, started a petition on the Avaaz activist website calling for Brazil
to grant asylum. Miranda wrote: "We have to thank a person for bringing us the
truth and helping us fight the aggressive American espionage: Edward Snowden. He
is public enemy No 1 in the US. He is someone I admire.
"Edward is running out of time. He is on a temporary visa in Russia, and as a
condition of his stay there he cannot talk to the press or help journalists or
activists better understand how the US global spying machine works.
"If Snowden was in Brazil, it is possible that he could do more to help the
world understand how the and its allies are invading the privacy
of people around the world, and how we can protect ourselves. He cannot do it in
Following the extra media exposure prompted by Snowden's open letter, Michael
Freitas Mohallem, the campaign director for Avaaz in Brazil, said his
organisation was preparing to back the petition with a letter to all of the
group's 6 million members.
"I don't see a single reason why president Dilma would say no. Snowden is a
hero. He's made a sacrifice to open our eyes, particularly in Brazil. Even DIlma
was involved and Petrobras. This made big news. I think Brazilian people care
about it and they will stand behind Snowden," said Mohallem.
However the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has shown no inclination that it is
ready to offer aslym to Snowden despite earlier campaigns by civil society
organisations and social networks. One group, called Juntos, previously staged a
group called Juntos outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which earlier
indicated a reluctance to accept a request from Snowden.
Laura Tresca from the South American office of the freedom of information
group Article 19 said Brazil should grant Snowden asylum.
"Brazilian society was deeply offended by the scope of the spying he revealed
through his whistleblowing. Even now, social media actors are calling him a hero
without a nation," she said. "As the Brazilian Government is leading the
international debate about this surveillance, it should be consistent and grant
asylum to the man who made this debate possible." Miranda is currently applying
for a judicial review of his nine-hour detention at London's Heathrow airport in