BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil has no plans to grant asylum to Edward Snowden even after the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor offered on Tuesday to help investigate revelations of spying on Brazilians and their president, a local newspaper reported.
The Folha de S.Paulo newspaper, citing unnamed government officials, said the Brazilian government has no interest in investigating the mass Internet surveillance programs Snowden revealed in June and does not intend to give him asylum.
In an “Open Letter to the Brazilian People” published by Folha and social media, Snowden offered to help a congressional probe into NSA spying on the country, including the personal communications of President Dilma Rousseff.
“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,” the letter said.
Snowden is living in Russia under temporary asylum that is due to expire in August. He had previously asked for asylum in Brazil, among other countries, but Brasilia did not answer his request. While Snowden stopped short of asking for asylum again in the letter, he suggested that any collaboration with Brazilian authorities would depend them granting him asylum.
“Until a country grants permanent political asylum, the U.S. government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak,” Snowden wrote.
The revelations of NSA spying damaged relations between the United States and Latin America’s largest country and prompted Rousseff to cancel a state visit to Washington in October. The spying also led Rousseff to become a global advocate for curbs on Internet surveillance.
Evidence that the NSA monitored Rousseff’s email and cellphone, along with hacking the network of state-run oil company Petrobras, angered Brazilians and led the Senate to investigate the extent of U.S. spying. Some members of Brazil’s Congress have asked Russia for permission to interview Snowden but have received no reply, a congressional aide said.
In a Twitter message, Senator Ricardo Ferraço, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, said “Brazil should not miss the opportunity to grant asylum to Edward Snowden, who was key to unraveling the U.S. espionage system.”
Other politicians, mainly opponents of Rousseff’s leftist government, said granting Snowden asylum would be counter-productive and would lead to further deterioration of ties with the United States, Brazil’s largest trading partner after China.
Rights watchdog Amnesty International said Brazil should give “full consideration” to Snowden’s claim for asylum.
“It is his right to seek international protection, and it’s also Brazil’s international obligation to review and decide on his request under the refugee convention,” Amnesty said in a statement.
A Brazilian foreign ministry spokesman said Brazil has never received a formal application for asylum from Snowden and thus had nothing to consider.
The original English version of Snowden’s letter was published on the Facebook page of David Miranda, partner of journalist and blogger Glenn Greenwald, who first brought the Snowden leaks to the world’s attention.
Miranda started a petition on the website Avaaz, pressing Rousseff to grant asylum to the “courageous” Snowden.
In his letter, Snowden praised Brazil’s efforts at the United Nations to limit excessive electronic surveillance.
Last month a U.N. General Assembly committee expressed concern at the harm such scrutiny, including spying in foreign states and the mass collection of personal data, might have on human rights, following a joint resolution introduced by Brazil and Germany.
On Monday, White House spokesman Jay Carney dismissed the suggestion that the United States could grant amnesty to Snowden if he turned over the documents in his possession.
Reporting by Anthony Boadle and Asher Levine; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Peter Galloway and Ken Wills