Brazil is to investigate reports of US electronic spying on its citizens, with President Dilma Rousseff saying that, if proven, such action would constitute a violation of sovereignty.
Her comments came after the daily O Globo reported Sunday that the US National Security Agency spied on Brazilian residents and companies as well as people traveling in the country. The newspaper cited documents leaked by the fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Rousseff confirmed that the National Telecommunications Agency and federal police have been ordered to probe the reports.
“This would be a violation of sovereignty and human rights,” she told reporters. “But we have to see without haste…The position of Brazil on this matter is very clear and firm. We do not agree, under any circumstances, with such meddling, not just in Brazil but in any other country.”
Earlier documents leaked by Snowden had alleged that the United States maintained a vast surveillance system across its borders, as well as EU offices in Washington and New York and some European nations, such as Germany.
O Globo also reported Monday that Washington maintained a satellite intelligence collection base in Brasilia jointly operated “at least until 2002 by the NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency.”
“I have absolutely no doubt” about the veracity of the reports, Brazilian Communications Minister Paulo Bernardo said.
“Now the circumstances in which this was carried out, the exact form and date, this we must verify,” he added.
Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota welcomed Washington’s readiness to discuss the issue describing the spying allegations as “extremely serious.”
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed the US had “spoken with Brazilian officials regarding these allegations.”
But she refused to deny or confirm any details, saying simply “we plan to continue our dialogue with the Brazilians through normal diplomatic channels, but those are conversations that of course we would keep private.”
The communications minister said Brasilia planned to use the case to seek international support for the creation of a multilateral agency to govern the Internet.
“It cannot be governed by a private US entity when we know that this entity is controlled by the US government,” he added.
Bernardo also said he did not believe the NSA monitoring of Brazilians’ telephone and email data was done with the collusion of Brazilian firms.
O Globo said the US facility in Brasilia was part of a network of 16 “Primary Fornsat Collection Operations” maintained by the NSA around the world to intercept transmissions from foreign satellites.
Brazil leases eight satellites.
The daily said it did not have enough evidence to say whether the US operation continued after 2002.
It also published an NSA document dated September 2010 which seemed to indicate the Brazilian embassy in Washington and the Brazilian mission to the UN in New York were targeted by the agency.
The new reports came as Snowden, 30, remained in limbo in a Moscow airport as he seeks a safe haven in Latin America having fled the United States where he faces three felony charges.
The leftist leaders of Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua, who have strained ties with Washington, have all offered him asylum.
But he cannot leave the airport without a travel document after the US revoked his passport.
Washington has urged Russia to hand him over as a gesture of good will because the two sides have no extradition agreement.
America has warned “any country where he may be moving in transit, where he could end up and certainly any country that were to grant asylum, that could have an impact, of course, on our bilateral relationship,” Psaki said.