Ed Snowden Sends Open Letter To Brazil… Which The Press Blatantly Misrepresents

from the nice-work,-journalists dept

This morning, a Brazilian publication, A Folha, released a very interesting open letter from Ed Snowden. It’s worth reading in full, and we’ll include the full thing beneath this post, but first, a few snippets. His summary of the overall situation is key:

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.

American Senators tell us that Brazil should not worry, because this is not “surveillance,” it’s “data collection.” They say it is done to keep you safe. They’re wrong. There is a huge difference between legal programs, legitimate spying, legitimate law enforcement — where individuals are targeted based on a reasonable, individualized suspicion — and these programs of dragnet mass surveillance that put entire populations under an all-seeing eye and save copies forever. These programs were never about terrorism: they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power.

He then notes that some Brazilian politicians have asked for his assistance into researching what the US has done, and he said that he is willing to help “wherever appropriate and lawful” while also noting that the US pulling his passport and showing its willingness to force planes to land when it suspects Snowden may be on board may limit his effectiveness in helping with the investigation. There’s a lot more in the letter as well, but the press seems to be summarizing it as “Snowden offers to swap helping investigating spying for asylum.” A few examples:

All of these seem to think there’s some sort of conditional there. Reading the actual letter, that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. While he does mention that without being granted political asylum, the US government “will continue to interfere with my ability to speak,” there does not appear to be any quid pro quo setup, in which he’s asking for asylum. He’s just laying out the situation. Furthermore, he later notes the value of being able to speak freely, and how that’s more important than where he lives:

My act of conscience began with a statement: “I don’t want to live in a world where everything that I say, everything I do, everyone I talk to, every expression of creativity or love or friendship is recorded. That’s not something I’m willing to support, it’s not something I’m willing to build, and it’s not something I’m willing to live under.”

Days later, I was told my government had made me stateless and wanted to imprison me. The price for my speech was my passport, but I would pay it again: I will not be the one to ignore criminality for the sake of political comfort. I would rather be without a state than without a voice.

Of course, the absolute worst of the worst in reporting on this was… CNN. They posted a tweet, claiming that Snowden offered to “spy on the US.” Seriously.

Thankfully, after lots of people reacted angrily to that, CNN chose to delete the tweet. And people wonder why the media business is struggling these days.


Ed Snowden's open letter to the people of Brazil:
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.

My greatest fear was that no one would listen to my warning. Never have I been so glad to have been so wrong. The reaction in certain countries has been particularly inspiring to me, and Brazil is certainly one of those.

At the NSA, I witnessed with growing alarm the surveillance of whole populations without any suspicion of wrongdoing, and it threatens to become the greatest human rights challenge of our time. The NSA and other spying agencies tell us that for our own "safety"—for Dilma's "safety," for Petrobras' "safety"—they have revoked our right to privacy and broken into our lives. And they did it without asking the public in any country, even their own.

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.

American Senators tell us that Brazil should not worry, because this is not "surveillance," it's "data collection." They say it is done to keep you safe. They’re wrong. There is a huge difference between legal programs, legitimate spying, legitimate law enforcement — where individuals are targeted based on a reasonable, individualized suspicion — and these programs of dragnet mass surveillance that put entire populations under an all-seeing eye and save copies forever. These programs were never about terrorism: they're about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They're about power.

Many 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.

Six months ago, I revealed that the NSA wanted to listen to the whole world. Now, the whole world is listening back, and speaking out, too. And the NSA doesn't like what it's hearing. The culture of indiscriminate worldwide surveillance, exposed to public debates and real investigations on every continent, is collapsing. Only three weeks ago, Brazil led the United Nations Human Rights Committee to recognize for the first time in history that privacy does not stop where the digital network starts, and that the mass surveillance of innocents is a violation of human rights.

The tide has turned, and we can finally see a future where we can enjoy security without sacrificing our privacy. Our rights cannot be limited by a secret organization, and American officials should never decide the freedoms of Brazilian citizens. Even the defenders of mass surveillance, those who may not be persuaded that our surveillance technologies have dangerously outpaced democratic controls, now agree that in democracies, surveillance of the public must be debated by the public.

My act of conscience began with a statement: "I don't want to live in a world where everything that I say, everything I do, everyone I talk to, every expression of creativity or love or friendship is recorded. That's not something I'm willing to support, it's not something I'm willing to build, and it's not something I'm willing to live under."

Days later, I was told my government had made me stateless and wanted to imprison me. The price for my speech was my passport, but I would pay it again: I will not be the one to ignore criminality for the sake of political comfort. I would rather be without a state than without a voice.

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.

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Comments on “Ed Snowden Sends Open Letter To Brazil… Which The Press Blatantly Misrepresents”

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41 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Shocking!!!

If anythings shocking, its that 90% of the print media IS LOSING against the Internet.

WSJ for example, few people would have read that, yet now hundreds of millions of people will read the opposition to that piece.

I tell you, trolls have their place! And the print press has become the trolls of the Internet. Feeding the net with stuff to bounce off of.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Out of curiosity I checked the various newspages listed, and surprise surprise, not a single one of them has the actually letter available for their readers to read and check against the claims and ‘interpretations’ the various articles are making about it. Closest I could find was The Guardian, with a link to the source article with the letter, untranslated.

Ah, gotta love the news these days, ‘Why let facts get in the way of a good story headline’…

Anonymous Coward says:

These purposely mixing up the messages are part of why the news organizations aren’t doing as well as they were in the past. Honestly, I no longer trust them to actually deliver the news correctly. Used to be they had checks of factual data so that what was printed could be documented if necessary to support their reasons for it being in print.

Now they just take it off the internet and claim they are reporting what they found since they didn’t generate it themselves. More and more it turns out days later they are having to go back to the story to actually address the errors. Here they aren’t even trying to get it factually correct.

If there were ever a damning demonstration of why more and more do not trust media you are looking at it here.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The fact that the vast majority of mainstream “news” is propaganda, lies, or just blatantly wrong is a huge reason why those outlets are going under. The factual inaccuracies aren’t new (they became pervasive once the “news” media started to consolidate under major corporations), but the internet makes it easier than ever for people to notice them.

And good riddance. Maybe if they all go away, we can work to get real journalism.

out_of_the_blue says:

Google = "dragnet mass surveillance ... entire populations under an all-seeing eye"

Don’t forget that the very first revelation Snowden made was that Google supplies NSA “direct access” to its servers. That’s NOT been refuted, just denied and deflected by a secretive mega-corporation having direct interest if not need to deny it, and we’ve no way of proving it.

2nd, this appears part of the rehabilitation of Snowden. IF as I believe, all been deliberate limited-hangout intelligence psyop, then they wouldn’t burn him. And so the mega-spy that NSA and Justice want so badly just may go peacefully to Brazil, eh? — Besides the legal extradition, sure sounds as though NOW he’s not at all worrried about being murdered, as he was previously.

Nope, this Snowden story just keeps falling apart with points that just can’t fit. As I’ve said, the more appealing and the more you want to believe that a real opposition even exists, that’s cause in itself to doubt.


Google’s ability to target you for advertising is EXACTLY what NSA needs to target you as political dissident, NOT coincidentally.

07:35:53[i-226-8]

ottermaton (profile) says:

Re: Google = "dragnet mass surveillance ... entire populations under an all-seeing eye"

Just remember, OOTB is the same shithead who just earlier TODAY posted a comment with the title So don’t deal with Amazon. Problem solved.

Cognitive dissonance much?

Oh, and by the way, Google can’t arrest, imprison, or execute people either. Another point that is entirely lost on you.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Google = "dragnet mass surveillance ... entire populations under an all-seeing eye"

So you are theorising that Ed Snowden is actually a loyal NSA agent, with ties to Google, who under orders deliberately leaked information that paints the NSA in an extremely bad light, all so he could go to China, Russsia and now Brazil…to spy on them…which will be impossible now that he’s one of the most well known faces in the world and (Insert Country)’s law enforcement & intelligence services will be keeping an eye on him just in case.

Which makes the NSA look stupider? That their internal security was so bad that he was able to walk away with the amount of documents he reportedly has…or that they did your psyop?

Squirrel says:

Re: Re: Google =dragnet mass surveillance ...

Now that g00gle has all the robots under its control to back up its spying activity, it makes perfect sense why this scragly, rabid spikey haired looking squirrel has been hanging out at the feeder with glossy red eyes staring coldly into my window for two days now. I thought I was losing it again, but it hasn’t touched the sunflower seeds.. and its apparently nocturnal as well because there it was in the middle of the night when I got up to scratch my ass and get a shot of milk.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

(Which, funnily enough, all the founding fathers of the US would be considered these days)

And sadly, to the English, they were pretty much considered that back then. There was an awful long period of time before the start of open hostilities in Lexington and North Bridge in 1775 where the whole lot could have ended up rounded up and executed as enemies of the crown.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

A “terrorist” is simply someone who uses the tactic of terrorism and not someone who holds a particular ideology.

I agree with the correct definition of terrorist (one who uses acts of terror to gain power or push their agenda,) but when has certain members of Congress/NSA/Executive Branch/Media organizations limited themselves to correct definitions and/or facts to describe actions of others?

When the acts of political discourse and/or disagreements are called acts of terrorism (as the word communist was often used, and is still used, to define the same actors,) we’ve slipped all the way down the well and are looking up from the bottom. It becomes a derogatory term, like all others, to be used to define those we don’t like irrespective of the original definition. I actually heard a member of the media say as much about Mr. Snowden this morning when reporting on this for a conservative news radio channel (that I listen to solely for traffic and weather, honestly.) I believe those were AC/That One Guy’s points.

Anonymous Coward says:

“These programs were never about terrorism: they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power.”

-Edward Snowden

He’s absolutely right, and he also states, “privacy does not stop where the digital network starts, and that the mass surveillance of innocents is a violation of human rights.”

Edward Snowden is a true rarity. Not many people are willing to sacrifice themselves, in order to prevent all of mankind, from falling into an Orwellian spy trap.

Thank you Ed!

GEMont (profile) says:

Just thought I'd say....

“There is a huge difference between legal programs, legitimate spying, legitimate law enforcement ? where individuals are targeted based on a reasonable, individualized suspicion ? and these programs of dragnet mass surveillance that put entire populations under an all-seeing eye and save copies forever. These programs were never about terrorism: they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power.”

….told ye so. 🙂

GEMont (profile) says:

for those who missed it

From: 17/09/13 here on TechDirt

It also underlines why we should celebrate Snowden as a whisteblower who has performed a valuable service, not as a “traitor”, since nothing of value was passed to the enemy.

It also points out rather forcefully, exactly what I’ve said all along. None of the NSA surveillance has anything whatsoever to do with terrorism – unless of course you believe that the NSA, FBI, CIA ETC. had no idea that all the terorist organizations were fully aware of the NSA Global Snoop&Scoop Programs and had long ago stopped using any communication medium that is open to the agency’s interception and collection programs.

Eventually, barring another major war, the simple fact that this is all about extortion/blackmail and the theft of corporate/industrial/commercial secrets and research, will come out in the Snowden Wash.

I can only imagine that the perps involved in this scheme are doing everything they possibly can to get another war started ASAP, because nothing sweeps dirt under the carpet better than a really good war.

Pragmatic says:

Of course, the absolute worst of the worst in reporting on this was… CNN. They posted a tweet, claiming that Snowden offered to “spy on the US.” Seriously.

I laughed when I was told CNN are liberal. No, they are not. They are strictly establishment. You just can’t believe what the big media outlets say any more.

I’m sick and tired of Ed being demonized. Declare him not guilty, return his passport and let him come home if he wants to.

Yukan Gess says:

Bag of tricks

A lot of people think this man is a true patriot of the people. I think he is afucknut to the (N)th degree. In all cases where those in power are made to relinquish one of their tricks from a very deep bag of tricks, someone is going to pay. Everyone will pay for this. You mark my words. This idiot in a truly unwise decision, has just fucked the world over by releasing this information to any and all takers.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Bag of tricks

I take it then that you are among that unique subset of humans that prefers being fucked in their sleep, as opposed to being fucked while awake.

In case you were asleep, the whole world is currently paying right now – nobody is safe from this blanket surveillance and the incriminations, blackmail, and character assassinations that it promises should anyone step out of line.

Never could understand why anyone would prefer to willingly bend over and take it up the dark side without a complaint, simply because they believed that to complain might mean it’ll feel even worse, or happen more often.

I’d think that your reading of TechDirt articles might just be construed as “complaining” and possibly even as seeking relief from your tormentors, even if you do post responses that praise their irrefutable glory and omnipotent power.

Beware of that.

Well, have a good sleep.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Bag of tricks

So, never try and restrain those in power from abusing their power, they’ll just do more damage in retaliation?

Would you like your barcode tattooed on your forehead, or your hand? Either way with a mindset like that you’ve already given those in charge all the power they could ever want, as they don’t even have to do anything to keep you cowed, just threaten that they might do something bad in the future if you don’t comply.

John85851 (profile) says:

Hyperbolic headlines

The problem with today’s media is that there’s so many stories that every outlet needs a catchy (or hyperbolic) title to get attention. Which sounds better: “Snowden writes open letter to Brazil” or “Snowden to spy on US people in exchange for asylum in Brazil and probably $1 billion to enjoy Carnivale”. At least they didn’t go with the typical link-bait headline of “You won’t believe what Snowden did to Brazil” or “10 things you need to know about Snowden and Brazil”.

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