The world’s most notorious secret-spiller is looking for a new home.
Edward Snowden, the former CIA employee who blew the lid off of the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance programs, is offering to help the Brazil government investigate U.S. spying, but says he needs permanent asylum before he is able to speak freely.
“I’ve expressed my willingness to assist where it’s appropriate and legal, but unfortunately, the U.S. government has been working hard to limit my ability to do so,” Snowden said in an open letter in Brazil’s Folha newspaper.
“Until a country grants me permanent asylum, the U.S. government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak out."
A foreign ministry spokesman told Reuters later in the day that Brazil is not considering granting Snowden asylum because authorities have not received a formal request.
Snowden is currently living under temporary asylum in Russia, which is set to expire next summer. The former NSA contractor is behind the thousands upon thousands of documents leaked last June detailing the United States' expansive surveillance programs. The troves of leaked material sparked controversy both in the U.S. and around the globe in bringing to light the breadth of the agency's data-gathering.
Just on Monday, federal Judge Richard Leon ruled that the NSA data-collection of millions of Americans' phone records is likely unconstitutional.
Snowden praised the Brazilian government’s criticism of the NSA program, which has included monitoring Brazil President Dilma Rousseff’s phone. In September, Rousseff canceled a visit to the United States over the allegations.
“The illegal act of intercepting communications and data of citizens, businesses and members of the Brazilian government constitute a serious act which threatens national sovereignty and individual rights, and which is incompatible with democratic coexistence between friendly countries,” Rousseff’s office said in a statement at the time.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement that Obama regretted the concerns resulting from the allegations that that he’d work to strengthen U.S. relations with Brazil.
Snowden said in his letter that U.S. lawmakers say “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.”
This is the second appeal Snowden has made to the South American country. Last July, along with the help of the transparency group WikiLeaks, Snowden reached out to almost two dozen countries, including Brazil, to request asylum.
The president discussed the NSA's surveillance program with top tech CEOs on Tuesday during a meeting at the White House. Major tech firms, including Facebook, Twitter, Apple and Yahoo, were represented at the meeting. Many of the companies' chief executives have already expressed concern about the NSA’s program, arguing it violates their customers’ privacy.
The White House released a statement after the meeting, saying the president “made clear his belief in an open, free and innovative internet and listened to the group’s concerns and recommendations.” Obama also “made clear that we will consider their input as well as the input of other outside stakeholders as we finalize our review of signals intelligence programs,” according to the White House's readout of the meeting.
The tech companies issued a joint statement after the meeting urging the president “to move aggressively on reform.”