Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Brazilian President Blasts U.S. Intel Surveillance

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff appeared at the U.N. general assembly (UNGA) on Tuesday and she did not mince words in her criticism of supposed surveillance carried out by the U.S.

“Tampering in such a manner in the lives and affairs of other countries is a breach of international law and, as such, it is an affront to the principles that should otherwise govern relations among countries, especially among friendly nations,” said a stern Rousseff who was the opening speaker at the UNGA this morning.

Rousseff, who last week postponed a planned state visit to the U.S., accused the National Security Agency (NSA) of having “intercepted indiscriminately” information from Brazilians such as ordinary citizens, companies and even her own office.  She also rejected any justification for surveillance over Brazil by claiming, “We reject, fight and do not harbor terrorist groups.”

“As many other Latin Americans, I fought against authoritarianism and censorship and I cannot but defend, in an uncompromising fashion, the right to privacy of individuals and the sovereignty of my country,” said Rousseff who referred to her detention as a political prisoner under Brazil’s military regime several decades ago.

As we mentioned earlier this month, the allegations of NSA spying have emerged from information said to be obtained from ex-U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden and has been shown on Brazilian TV.  Among the revelations were the alleged NSA-run “data-collection base” that tapped phone calls and e-mails of Brazilians as well as the NSA’s infiltration of the private networks of several firms including Petrobras.

Brazil began changing its communications infrastructure this month in order to protect information privacy.  Rousseff went further in her U.N. speech and called for the creation of a new global framework to govern the Internet and guarantee the “neutrality of the network, guided only by technical and ethical criteria, rendering it inadmissible to restrict it for political, commercial, religious or any other purposes.”

Most Brazilian legislators including opposition politicians supported Rousseff’s speech and called it “a success” and praised her for demonstrating a “strong attitude” against the alleged spying. 

U.S. President Barack Obama spoke after Rousseff and did not reply directly to her remarks.  Yet he noted “we have begun to review the way that we gather intelligence, so as to properly balance the legitimate security concerns of our citizens and allies, with the privacy concerns that all people share.”

Despite the deep diplomatic rift between the U.S. and one of its key Latin American allies, Brazilian foreign minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo may meet meet this week with his U.S. counterpart, John Kerry. In the meantime, no new date has been set for Rousseff’s postponed state visit to Washington.

Brazil hasn’t been the only Latin American state reportedly targeted by the NSA.  The agency has come under scrutiny from Mexico over rumors that they infiltrated communications from current President Enrique Peña Nieto during his campaign for the presidency.

Video Source– YouTube via AFP

Online Sources – Bloomberg; The Guardian; O Globo; The Latin Americanist

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