On Monday, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden penned an open letter to Brazil, praising the country for its strong response to the NSA's widespread data collection and offering to help investigate such programs if Brazil grants him permanent political asylum. Snowden is currently living in Russia on a one-year asylum.
"My greatest fear was that no one would listen to my warning," Snowden wrote. "Never have I been so glad to have been so wrong. The reaction in certain countries has been particularly inspiring to me, and Brazil is certainly one of those."
He went on, listing the many ways in which the NSA is spying on people in Brazil and around the world, framing the examples as specific to Brazil. "Today, if you carry a cell phone in Sao Paolo... ", When someone in Florianopolis visits a website..." etc.
The spying programs aren't about safety from terrorism or legal intelligence gathering, Snowden wrote; instead, they're about "economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation" and "power."
Noting that Brazilian President President Dilma Rousseff, whose cell phone was monitored by the NSA, and many Brazilian senators agree, Snowden offered to help Brazil in whatever legal ways he could. But, he added, "until a country grants permanent political asylum, the US government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak."
"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!"
"If Brazil hears only one thing from me, let it be this," he wrote at the letter's end. "When all of us band together against injustices and in defense of privacy and basic human rights, we can defend ourselves from even the most powerful systems."
Snowden's letter comes at an especially vulnerable time for the NSA and defenders of its spy programs. Yesterday afternoon, a federal judge ruled that the NSA's cellphone metadata collection program, which targets some Americans, is "almost Orwellian" and probably unconstitutional.