Snowden Appeals To Brazil For Asylum


Edward Snowden is offering to help Brazilian government officials in their investigation of U.S. surveillance of their country in exchange for asylum:

National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden says he would be willing to help Brazil investigate NSA spying on its soil, but could not fully participate without being granted political asylum because the U.S. government “will continue to interfere with my ability to speak.”

In a lengthy “open letter to the people of Brazil” obtained on Tuesday by The Associated Press, Snowden also commended the Brazilian government for its strong stand against U.S. spying.

Snowden that he’s been inspired by the global debate ignited by his release of thousands of National Security Agency documents, and that the NSA’s culture of indiscriminate global espionage “is collapsing.”

Revelations about the NSA’s spy programs were first published in June, based on some of the thousands of documents Snowden handed over to the Brazil-based American journalist Glenn Greenwald and his reporting partner Laura Poitras, a U.S. filmmaker.

The documents revealed that Brazil is the top NSA target in Latin America, spying that has included the monitoring of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s cellphone and hacking into the internal network of state-run oil company Petrobras.

The revelations enraged Rousseff, who in October canceled an official visit to Washington that was to include a state dinner. She’s also pushing the United Nations to give citizens more protections against spying.

In his letter, Snowden dismissed U.S. explanations to the Brazilian government and others that the bulk metadata gathered on billions of emails and calls was more “data collection” than surveillance.

“There is a huge difference between legal programs, legitimate spying … and these programs of dragnet mass surveillance that put entire populations under an all-seeing eye and save copies forever,” he wrote. “These programs were never about terrorism: they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power.”

Brazilian senators have asked for Snowden’s help during hearings about the NSA’s targeting of Brazil, an important transit hub for trans-Atlantic fiber optic cables that are hacked. Both Greenwald and his domestic partner David Miranda spoke before the senate, and Miranda has taken up the cause of persuading the Brazilian government to grant political asylum to Snowden.

Snowden, who is living in Russia on a temporary one-year visa, previously requested political asylum in Brazil and several other nations.

On Tuesday, neither Brazil’s Foreign Ministry nor the presidential office said they had immediate comment on Snowden’s letter or any pending asylum request.

Greenwald and his partner are, of course, long time residents of Brazil and, as noted, the Brazilian government has been rather outspoken regarding the revelations of NSA activities in the nation. If granted, I’d imagine that Snowden would find asylum at Ipanema Beach far more pleasant than Russia or any of the other Latin American countries that have offered him asylum already.

FILED UNDER: Intelligence, Latin America, National Security, Terrorism, , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. It’s rather naïve for him to think the FSB and SVR will let him go…

  2. Fausta says:

    Also, Snowden is probably not aware that Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff is proposing that the Brazilian government in effect control internet access throughout the country.

  3. michael reynolds says:


    I doubt he cares. I suspect Snowden’s idealism is more self-importance and hero fantasy than anything deeper. Motives are generally grubbier than one might wish.

  4. Mikey says:

    @michael reynolds: I agree, he doesn’t care about the seeming inconsistencies between his supposed high ideals and the oppressive practices of the nations within which he’s sought and is seeking shelter. His objective is to damage the United States, and if that means hiding out in journalist-murdering Russia and then helping access-controlling Brazil with its investigation, that’s what he’ll do.

  5. Joe R. says:

    @Mikey: is there a country that a) has a history of press and speech freedom and b) would not turn Snowden over to the U.S.? His options are quite limited. I can’t blame him for picking one that is pleasant on a personal level.

  6. Mikey says:

    @Joe R.:

    His options are quite limited.

    Oh, poor Edward, he’s gotten himself into such a pickle!

    Seriously, I just don’t give a shit. I might have a shred of sympathy if I thought he wanted to do something besides hurt America, but his actions are inconsistent with any other objective.

  7. If granted, I’d imagine that Snowden would find asylum at Ipanema Beach far more pleasant than Russia or any of the other Latin American countries that have offered him asylum already.

    If that were his goal, I’d imagine he’d have made this offer a year ago. Pretty pointless smear, Doug.

  8. al-Ameda says:

    If granted, I’d imagine that Snowden would find asylum at Ipanema Beach far more pleasant than Russia or any of the other Latin American countries that have offered him asylum already

    I’m sure that Glenn Greenwald can set him up in a nice apartment in the Leblon district of Rio.

  9. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Anybody else think that Russian winter has anything to do with this? I imagine that our pal Snowden is right now figuring out just how cold it can get in Moscow.

    Enjoy freezing your behind off there, Edward.