Snowden seeking asylum in Brazil

Edward Snowden apparently has discovered that Moscow in December is not quite as comfortable as his previous digs in Hawaii.  So he is requesting asylum in Brazil, in an "open letter to the people of Brazil," published today in the Brazilian newspaper A Folha. Highlights include:

Six months ago, I stepped out from the shadows of the United States Government's National Security Agency to stand in front of a journalist's camera. I shared with the world evidence proving some governments are building a world-wide surveillance system to secretly track how we live, who we talk to, and what we say. I went in front of that camera with open eyes, knowing that the decision would cost me family and my home, and would risk my life. I was motivated by a belief that the citizens of the world deserve to understand the system in which they live. (snip)

Today, if you carry a cell phone in Sao Paolo, the NSA can and does keep track of your location: they do this 5 billion times a day to people around the world. When someone in Florianopolis visits a website, the NSA keeps a record of when it happened and what you did there. If a mother in Porto Alegre calls her son to wish him luck on his university exam, NSA can keep that call log for five years or more. They even keep track of who is having an affair or looking at pornography, in case they need to damage their target's reputation. (snip)

Brazilian senators agree, and have asked for my assistance with their investigations of suspected crimes against Brazilian citizens. 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 -- going so far as to force down the Presidential Plane of Evo Morales to prevent me from traveling to Latin America! Until a country grants permanent political asylum, the US government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak. (snip)

If Brazil hears only one thing from me, let it be this: when all of us band together against injustices and in defense of privacy and basic human rights, we can defend ourselves from even the most powerful systems.

I confess that I am still unsure about how to regard Snowden. On the one hand, he did take his complete files to China and Russia, where one must conclude the authorities gained access to the entire contents. And he seeks the aid and comfort of nations that are run by leftists and rivals of his own country, the United States.

On the other hand, he has revealed secrets that are alarming to not just civil libertarians, but at least one federal judge, who has found that the NSA is violating the Fourth Amendment. I don't like being the object of NSA durveillance one bit, and am glad I know about the secrets Snowden exposed.

If Snowden ends up in Brazil, he will be in the same country as Glenn Greenwald, the American journalist who moved to Brazil to be with the young Brazilian boyfriend that he spotted one day on the beach.