The fallout from the leaked NSA documents is apparently neverending. Brazil's president, Dilma Rousseff, has canceled her advance team's trip to Washington, DC. A high-ranking official stated the president was "furious" after information surfaced about the NSA's actions via a report by Globo TV.
The Globo report that aired Sunday was based on NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden to U.S. journalist Glenn Greenwald, who lives in Rio de Janeiro and worked with the network on the story. Most of Greenwald’s stories on the NSA program have been published in Britain’s Guardian newspaper.
The report said the U.S. agency mapped out the aides with whom Rousseff communicated and tracked patterns of how those aides communicated with one another and also third parties, according to a June 2012 NSA document. Greenwald said the document, while not containing excerpts of Rousseff communications, made it clear that U.S. officials were reading her emails and text messages.
Rousseff had been extended a formal invitation by the administration to a "full state dinner," the only such invitation handed out this year, but it appears the Brazilian president is unwilling to entertain the offer, thanks to the administration's handling of the spying allegations
[T]he official, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the episode, said Rousseff feels "patronized" by the U.S. response so far to the Globo report.
While it is common for state intelligence agencies to spy on other nations, the unwritten rule has always been, "don't get caught." Thanks to Snowden's leaks, the NSA has broken this rule, albeit more out of internal carelessness that led to the documents' escape, rather than through the carelessness of active agents.
The end result, however, is the same: another chilled international relationship and another one that the administration seems uninterested in rekindling. Rather than mend these fences, the administration seems to be putting more of its energy into playing defense.
But there's more on the line than some national embarrassment. Once again, allegations of spying are hurting American businesses
. Not only does it appear that Rousseff with stand up Obama at the state dinner, but it also looks like a $4 billion deal to purchase F-18 fighters might evaporate as well. This is in addition to other mutually-beneficial agreements revolving around biofuels and oil.
The administration may be playing it safe and attempting to downplay the NSA's activities, but that only seems to be adding to the damage. As noted above, Rousseff felt "patronized" by the US government's response to the allegations. Brazil's Communications Minister Paulo Bernardo's assessment of the written response provided by the administration is even harsher.
Bernardo... said Brazil had yet to receive any "reasonable" explanation from the United States.
"All of the explanations that have been given to us from the beginning of these episodes have proven to be false," Bernardo said. "I think it's indiscriminate spying that has nothing to do with national security ... It's espionage with a commercial, industrial aim."
And that's the crux of the problem with the administration's response to these leaks. Rather than address the fact that many people feel violated by the surveillance, it instead doles out talking points
about targeting, oversight, legality and security, when not issuing denials
that are swiftly proven false. There's very little attempt to discuss the what bothers people about the NSA's actions -- the "why." Justification for these programs is always delivered in meaningless buzzwords and assertions that the NSA's activities are all very tightly controlled are delivered in words that have been stripped of their meaning by high-ranking intelligence officials.
It's not just Brazil that feels "patronized" by this "don't worry about it -- it's for your own good and it's all legal" treatment. It's everyone. While it may be the accepted m.o. for national intelligence agencies to play spy vs. spy, it's quite another to find out you've been directly targeted, no matter what your position, especially
if you head a country that isn't directly antagonistic to the United States.