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Snowden: NSA’s indiscriminate spying ‘collapsing’

This June 9 file photo provided by The Guardian Newspaper in London shows National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, in Hong Kong. Snowden wrote in "an open letter to the Brazilian people" published early Tuesday by the respected Folha de S. Paulo newspaper that he would be willing to help Brazil's government investigate U.S. spying on its soil, but that he could do so only if granted political asylum. AP file photo

This June 9 file photo provided by The Guardian Newspaper in London shows National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, in Hong Kong. Snowden wrote in "an open letter to the Brazilian people" published early Tuesday by the respected Folha de S. Paulo newspaper that he would be willing to help Brazil's government investigate U.S. spying on its soil, but that he could do so only if granted political asylum. AP file photo

RIO DE JANEIRO — National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden wrote in a lengthy “open letter to the people of Brazil” that he’s been inspired by the global debate ignited by his release of thousands of NSA documents and that the agency’s culture of indiscriminate global espionage “is collapsing.”

In the letter, Snowden commended the Brazilian government for its strong stand against U.S. spying. He wrote that he’d be willing to help the South American nation investigate NSA spying on its soil, but could not fully participate in doing so without being granted political asylum, because the U.S. “government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak.”

Revelations about the NSA’s spy programs were first published in the Guardian and The Washington Post newspapers 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 Brazil is the top NSA target in Latin America, with 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 of 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.

“Brazil is a big, strong country, I think one of the few nations in the world that could offer asylum to Edward Snowden,” Miranda said in a phone interview. “He’s helped so many nations, and I think mine like all others that have sworn to defend human rights should step forward to help him now.”

Miranda said he received Snowden’s letter directly from the former NSA analyst via “secure means.” Snowden lives in Russia on a temporary one-year visa.

“He just wants to continue the work that he began six months ago” when he first handed over documents to Greenwald and Poitras, Miranda told The Associated Press in an interview.

Snowden “can’t participate in the debate that’s happening now because Russia doesn’t allow him to take part,” Miranda said. “But if he were to be given permanent asylum, particularly here in Brazil ... I think he can help the entire world and Brazil understand the situation.”

Several members of Brazil’s Congress have called for Snowden to receive asylum so he could assist lawmakers’ investigation into NSA activity in Brazil.

“His help would be more than helpful, but it all must be done in such a way so as not to jeopardize our relationship with the United States,” said Sen. Vanessa Grazziotin, who heads the Senate panel investigating U.S. espionage in Brazil. “I personally defend the idea that Brazil should grant Snowden political asylum for humanitarian reasons only, not in exchange for information.”

U.S. officials have remained steadfast in their stance on Snowden, accusing him of leaking classified information and saying he should face felony charges in American courts.

Rousseff recently joined Germany in pushing for the United Nations to adopt a symbolic resolution that seeks to extend personal privacy rights to all people.

She has also ordered Brazil’s government to take several measures, including laying fiber optic lines directly to Europe and South American nations, to “divorce” Brazil from the U.S.-centric backbone of the Internet that experts say has facilitated NSA spying.

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