Brasília (AFP) – U.S. leaker Edward Snowden said in a TV interview here that he would accept asylum in Brazil if offered, but not if it were in exchange for information about U.S. intelligence.
Snowden, in an interview broadcast late Sunday on the news show “Fantastico” on Globo TV network, also criticized the panel that is reviewing U.S. intelligence gathering, pointing out that it was hand-picked by the White House and that the changes it called for were cosmetic.
Nevertheless he acknowledged that the panel represented an important first step in reining in the massive U.S. surveillance programs.
The interview was conducted via email through an attorney in New York, and Snowden’s answers were broadcast in Portuguese.
The U.S. panel recommended curbing the powers of the National Security Agency (NSA), warning that its sweeps in the war on terror have gone too far.
Tens of thousands of documents leaked by former NSA contractor Snowden to The Guardian newspaper and other media outlets have detailed the nature of the agency’s hitherto shadowy activities.
On Tuesday, the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper ran “an open letter to the Brazilian people” signed by Snowden in which he said he stood ready to help the Brazilian Senate’s investigation of U.S. eavesdropping on Brazilian targets.
But in the interview broadcast Sunday, Snowden clarified that he was not offering to swap information for an asylum.
Snowden’s charm offensive with the Brazilian government and people may mean he is hoping for a fresh look from President Dilma Rousseff’s government — perhaps for asylum or a humanitarian visa.
In July the rogue intelligence analyst unsuccessfully sought asylum in Brazil, as well as in other countries.
Snowden was granted one-year asylum status by Russia and is living in an undisclosed location. Recently, his Russian lawyer said he had started working for a major website to earn some money after running out of cash.
Snowden’s leaks exposed a massive U.S. government surveillance effort that included spying on state leaders such as Rousseff and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
NSA snooping in Brazil included surveillance of Rousseff’s communications and those of state-run oil giant Petrobras, as well as of telephone calls and emails from millions of Brazilians.
The revelations infuriated Rousseff, who canceled a state visit to Washington scheduled for October in protest, and pushed for a UN resolution aimed at protecting “online” human rights.
Rousseff said that she would not comment on the Snowden case because the U.S. leaker has not formally filed an asylum request.
Brazilian police and lawmakers want to interview Snowden, even if it is via teleconference, to question him about the cybersnooping.
President Barack Obama said at a press conference Friday he welcomed a debate on the role of the NSA, but that Snowden’s leaks had caused “unnecessary damage” to U.S. intelligence capabilities.
Obama refused to discuss the possibility of amnesty or a presidential pardon for the fugitive IT contractor, who has been indicted on espionage charges.