PARATY, Brazil (AP) — Brazil's foreign minister said Sunday his government is worried by a report that the United States has collected data on billions of telephone and email conversations in his country and promised an effort for international protection of Internet privacy.
The O Globo newspaper reported over the weekend that information released by NSA leaker Edward Snowden shows that the number of telephone and email messages logged by the U.S. National Security Agency in Brazil in January alone was not far behind the 2.3 billion reportedly collected in the United States.
Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota, speaking from the colonial city of Paraty where he was attending Brazil's top literary festival, expressed "deep concern at the report that electronic and telephone communications of Brazilian citizens are being the object of espionage by organs of American intelligence.
"The Brazilian government has asked for clarifications" through the U.S. Embassy in Brazil and Brazil's embassy in Washington, he said.
Patriota also said Brazil will ask the U.N. for measures "to impede abuses and protect the privacy" of Internet users, laying down rules for governments "to guarantee cybernetic security that protects the rights of citizens and preserves the sovereignty of all countries."
The spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Brazil's capital, Dean Chaves, said diplomats there would not have any comment.
But the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a statement saying, "The U.S. government will respond through diplomatic channels to our partners and allies in the Americas ... While we are not going to comment publicly on specific alleged intelligence activities, as a matter of policy we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations."
The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff warned Sunday that Snowden's overall disclosures have undermined U.S. relationships with other countries and affected what he calls "the importance of trust." Gen. Martin Dempsey told CNN's "State of the Union" that the U.S. will "work our way back. But it has set us back temporarily."
Patriota's reaction in Brazil extended diplomatic turbulence the U.S. has faced from friends and foes around the world since Snowden began releasing details of the surveillance.
Germany's top security official suggested last month that Internet users could shun operations that use U.S.-based computer servers to avoid security worries. France's Interior Minister used a July 4 garden party at the U.S. Embassy in Paris to complain about alleged U.S. spying, saying "such practices, if proven, do not have their place between allies and partners."
Hong Kong officials last month declined a U.S. request to extradite the former NSA contract worker amid indications of displeasure over his revelation that the former British colony had been a target of American hacking.
The O Globo article said that "Brazil, with extensive digitalized public and private networks operated by large telecommunications and internet companies, appears to stand out on maps of the U.S. agency as a priority target for telephony and data traffic, alongside nations such as China, Russia and Pakistan."