Vindicated by yesterday's court decision that NSA collection of metadata likely violates the Constitution, Edward Snowden has penned an open letter to the Brazilian government offering to help them combat U.S. spying in exchange for asylum.
Snowden shared his gripes about Washington in the letter, published in Portuguese in Brazil's Folha de S. Paulo newspaper. The site has since posted an English version online:
The NSA and other spying agencies tell us that for our own "safety"-for Dilma's "safety," for Petrobras' "safety"-they have revoked our right to privacy and broken into our lives. And they did it without asking the public in any country, even their own.
Today, if you carry a cell phone in Sao Paolo, the NSA can and does keep track of your location: they do this 5 billion times a day to people around the world.
When someone in Florianopolis visits a website, the NSA keeps a record of when it happened and what you did there. If a mother in Porto Alegre calls her son to wish him luck on his university exam, NSA can keep that call log for five years or more.
They even keep track of who is having an affair or looking at pornography, in case they need to damage their target's reputation.
American Senators tell us that Brazil should not worry, because this is not "surveillance," it's "data collection." They say it is done to keep you safe. They're wrong.
Snowden continues by explicitly seeking permanent asylum:
I have expressed my willingness to assist wherever appropriate and lawful, but unfortunately the United States government has worked very hard to limit my ability to do so -- going so far as to force down the Presidential Plane of Evo Morales to prevent me from traveling to Latin America!
Until a country grants permanent political asylum, the US government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak.
Snowden's decision to reach out to Brazil is well calculated. In his letter, he notes that "only three weeks ago, Brazil led the United Nations Human Rights Committee to recognize for the first time in history that privacy does not stop where the digital network starts, and that the mass surveillance of innocents is a violation of human rights," referring to a Brazilian-German resolution on privacy adopted by the UNHCR. And President Dilma Rousseff was especially incensed by evidence, released by Snowden, that the U.S. was spying on her, saying in September that Washington had violated human rights and disrespected the "national sovereignty" of her country. She spoke before the United Nations General Assembly a week after indefinitely postponing a visit to the U.S.
Snowden spent several weeks seeking asylum in other place immediately after leaking secret NSA documents in June. He was in China when the story broke, giving an interview to The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald in a Hong Kong hotel. Though Hong Kong (which technically retains some independence from mainland China) seemed like a good bet for asylum, Snowden ultimately fled to Moscow where he is allowed to remain through August 1, 2014. Before that decision, however, there was much speculation as to where he would end up as Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela had tentatively offered to protect him. Last week, an NSA leader hinted that the U.S. may be open to granting Snowden amnesty from charges of theft, conversion of government property and espionage, but the offer was largely dismissed as unrealistic.
It is unclear why Edward Snowden is making moves to renew asylum at this time, although it seems that the offer to aid Brazil would take the possibility of U.S. amnesty — which was highly unlikely to happen anyway — firmly off the table.