UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – Brazil blasted the United States Tuesday for its cyber spying program, calling it no way to treat friendly nations, and called for international regulation of the Web.
A stern-faced President Dilma Rousseff, fighting low approval ratings at home after huge street protests in August, launched her broadsides from the podium of the United Nations in the opening hours of the annual UN General Assembly.
She said recent revelations of U.S. cyber spying — including against Brazil — from fugitive intelligence contractor Edward Snowden had caused “anger and repudiation among vast sectors worldwide.”
She said the intrusion was even worse in Brazil, as personal and corporate data — from oil giant Petrobras — and communications from embassies and even her own office were intercepted.
“Meddling in such manner in the lives and affairs of other countries is in breach of international affairs and as such it is an affront to the principles…that otherwise govern relations between countries,” Rousseff said through a translator.
The official English text of her speech called the spying a violation of international law.
“The right to security of a country’s citizens can never be ensured by violating the fundamental human and civil rights of other countries,” the president said.
She added that the U.S. argument that the surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA) was aimed at protecting against terrorism simply is “untenable.”
“Brazil knows how to protect itself,” Rousseff said. “We reject, fight and do not harbor terrorist groups.”
The case of Brazil has exacted perhaps the biggest diplomatic toll yet for the United States since the surveillance became known a few months ago.
Rousseff was to visit Washington next month but has now called off the high profile trip.
“We expressed to the government of the United States our disapproval, and demanded explanations, apologies and guarantees that such procedures will never be repeated,” she said.
“Friendly governments and societies that seek to build a true strategic partnership, as in our case, cannot allow recurring illegal actions to take place as if they were normal. They are unacceptable,” she continued.
President Barack Obama stepped up to the podium just after Rousseff, and insisted that while the United States was now reviewing its intelligence gathering, it had proved invaluable in the fight against terrorism.
“As a result of this work and cooperation with allies and partners, the world is more stable than it was five years ago. But even a glance at today’s headlines indicates the dangers that remain,” Obama said.
Tuesday afternoon another country that was spied on — Mexico — was to have its turn at the podium with an address from President Enrique Perez Nieto.
In her speech, Rousseff said Brazil would strive to protect its citizens’ privacy and intellectual property rights.
But the problem affects the entire international community and requires a response from it, she said.
“Information and telecommunication technologies cannot be the new battlefield between states,” she said.
“Time is ripe to create the conditions to prevent cyberspace from being used as a weapon of war, through espionage, sabotage, and attacks against systems and infrastructure of other countries,” she added.
She said Brazil would present a framework for “a civilian multilateral framework for the governance and use of the Internet and to ensure the effective protection of data that travels through the web.”
Principles that need to be ensured include freedom of expression, individual privacy and respect for human rights, she said.
“Harnessing the full potential of the Internet requires … responsible regulation,” Rousseff said.