Snowden offers to help Brazil spying investigation, hints at asylum request

Former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden's refugee document granted by Russia. Maxim Shemetov / Reuters, file

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden offered to collaborate with Brazil's investigation into the mass surveillance programs Tuesday, writing an open letter that hinted at his asylum request to that country.

In a letter published in the Folha De S. Paulo newspaper Snowden praised the "inspiring" reaction around the world – and in Brazil – after he unveiled the NSA's far-reaching spying program, which included the monitoring of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's personal cellphone.

"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," he wrote in "An Open Letter to the Brazilian People."

"Until a country grants permanent political asylum, the U.S. government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak," he added. Brazilian lawmakers have been trying to interview Snowden as part of their investigation but he seemed to suggest in his letter that he would only do so if he were welcomed into the country.

Snowden previously requested asylum in Brazil but he has not received any response. He is currently living under temporary asylum in Russia, after spending weeks in limbo at Moscow's international airport.

Documents Snowden leaked exposed Brazil as the top NSA target in Latin America, with surveillance that included hacking into the network of state-run oil company Petrobras and monitoring Rousseff's and ordinary Brazilians' phones.

The revelations soured relations between Brazil and the U.S. – Rousseff canceled a state visit to Washington and publicly advocated curbs on Internet surveillance.

"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," Snowden wrote, adding that "American officials should never decide the freedoms of Brazilian citizens."

His open letter was also published on the Facebook page of David Miranda, partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald, who first published Snowden's leaks in June. Miranda has started a petition calling for Brazil to offer Snowden asylum.

Press representatives from Brazil's foreign ministry and presidency were not available for comment.

On Monday, White House spokesman Jay Carney dismissed the suggestion that the U.S. could grant amnesty to Snowden if he were to turn over the documents in his possession.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.