Brazilian President Says Brazil Will Protect Itself Against NSA Spying

Calls surveillance “a breach of international law.”

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon greets Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff during the U.N. General Assembly. Eric Thayer / Reuters

UNITED NATIONS — Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff laid into the United States’ electronic spying programs during her address to the United Nations General Assembly, promising that her country would “protect itself” from the U.S. seeing its citizens’ and leaders’ communications.

“Meddling in such a matter in life and affairs of other countries is a breach of international law,” Rousseff said. “Brazil knows how to protect itself.”

Rousseff canceled a scheduled state dinner with President Obama after it came out earlier this month that the National Security Agency had spied on her internal communications and on Brazil’s state oil company Petrobas. The issue has become a sticking point in the heretofore warm relationship between the two countries, and Rousseff devoted a large portion of her UNGA speech to it. Awkwardly, Rousseff’s speech directly preceded Obama’s.

“We are a democratic country, surrounded by democratic countries that respect international law,” Rousseff said. She described the NSA intercepts as “illegal” and called on other countries to join Brazil in a “strategic partnership” in stopping them.

“Without respect to sovereignty there is no base for proper relations among nations,” Rouseff said.

“My administration will do everything within its reach and powers to defend human rights of all Brazilians and protect rights of all citizens in the world,” Rousseff said.

Rousseff also promised that Brazil would introduce a U.N. framework in response to the NSA spying activities and called for other countries to join.

“The U.N. organization should perform a leadership role to properly regulate the behavior of states regarding these technologies,” Rousseff said. “Brazil will put forth proposals for establishing a multilateral civil framework for internet government and use.”

The framework, as outlined by Rousseff, would include global data protection, protections for freedom of speech, and net neutrality.

Brazil is not immune from domestic spying scandals of its own. In 2008, it was revealed that the Abin, the country’s intelligence agency, had secretly recorded conversations between the supreme court president and a senator, leading to the suspension of Abin’s chief.

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