By Maria Lopez Conde, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Former United States National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden would accept permanent asylum in Brazil if the government offered it to him, but would not provide officials with more information regarding the U.S.-run espionage program on Brazilian targets in exchange for safe haven.
The new revelations from Snowden, the man who set off a worldwide diplomatic row over American surveillance and alleged spying on its allies and partners, were broadcast on Globo television’s “Fantástico” show last Sunday (December 22nd).
Although the Brazilian government has not extended an asylum offer to Snowden, the contractor said he would accept one if it were to come his way.
“Of course! If the Brazilian government wanted to defend human rights, it would be an honor for me to be a part of this. Brazil is a beautiful country and I am thankful for having so many new friends and allies over there,” Snowden said in his first interview with a Brazilian outlet, according to O Globo.
“I will never exchange information for asylum, and I also do not believe the Brazilian government would do that,” he added.
This interview comes just five days after Folha de São Paulo newspaper published a letter in which the former NSA subcontractor offered to assist Brazil in uncovering potential U.S. espionage crimes against Brazilians in exchange for asylum.
“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,” Snowden wrote in “An Open Letter to the Brazilian People,” which was also published on the blog of David Miranda, journalist Glenn Greenwald’s boyfriend.
“Until a country grants me permanent political asylum, the U.S. government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak,” read the letter. At the time, government sources affirmed that Brazil was not considering granting Snowden asylum. Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Snowden needed to make an official request in order for the government to consider granting him asylum.
“No one has sent me anything, no one has asked me for anything, and moreover, I do not interpret letters from anybody. I do not think that the Brazilian government has to make a statement about an individual who did not make things clear, did not send anything to us,” Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said on Thursday, December 19th, two days after the letter was published online and on Folha de São Paulo.
According to Snowden, his letter was not meant as a formal request for asylum in Brazil. “I will never cooperate with anyone outside the legal system. The objective of the message was to explain why these matters are important,” Snowden told “Fantástico.”
Brazil went to great lengths to publicly denounce the American-run espionage program revealed by Snowden in June. Snowden, a computer specialist who had worked for the National Security Agency, leaked a series of documents and information that showed the United States had collected a high volume of data on the telecommunications of Brazilian citizens.
Information leaked by Snowden through the help of Rio de Janeiro-based journalist Glenn Greenwald alleged that the United States had spied on President Rousseff and her inner circle of advisors, as well as on Brazil’s state-controlled Petrobras.
In response to the accusations, President Rousseff canceled a state visit to the United States scheduled for October and also publicly denounced the U.S.-run program during her opening address at the United Nations in September, blasting the American spying as a “breach on international law.”
In her speech, President Rousseff proposed legislation that would protect the online data of Brazilian citizens, circumventing U.S.-based servers. Discussion on the proposed law was slated for last September, but deferred until February, when Congress returns from holiday recess.
Meanwhile, Snowden was been granted temporary asylum in Russia in July, where has been in that country since June following an international media storm tracking his movements.