MOSCOW: New reports emerged on Sunday (Monday in Manila) of United States (US) spying efforts around the world as fugitive intelligence leaker Edward Snowden remained holed up in a Russian airport seeking an escape route to Latin America.
Snowden remained hidden in a Moscow airport transit zone for the 15th day on Sunday, but was back in the press with claims that the US National Security Agency (NSA) operated broad spying partnerships with other Western governments that are now complaining about its programs and intercepted millions of phone calls and emails in Brazil.
Snowden told Germany’s Der Spiegel that NSA spies were “in bed together with the Germans and most other Western states,” in an interview the news weekly said was conducted before the 30-year-old former NSA contractor began his string of high-profile leaks last month.
In remarks published in German, Snowden said an NSA department known as the Foreign Affairs Directorate coordinated work with foreign secret services.
The partnerships are organized so that authorities in other countries can “insulate their political leaders from the backlash” if it becomes public “how grievously they’re violating global privacy,” he said.
Brazilian daily O Globo meanwhile reported that the NSA spied on Brazilian residents and companies as well as people travelling in Brazil, citing documents obtained from Snowden.
“Exact figures are not available, but last January, Brazil was just behind the United States, where 2.3 billion phone calls and messages were spied on,” the newspaper said in an article co-written by Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian, the British newspaper that published Snowden’s leaks on top-secret US surveillance.
O Globo said the documents described a program called Fairview in which the NSA partnered with a major US phone company to gain access to the systems of overseas companies with which the US firm had relationships.
“The NSA used the Fairview program to directly access the Brazilian telecommunications system. That access allowed it to collect detailed records of phone calls and emails from millions of people, companies and institutions,” the paper said.
Brazil considers the allegation “extremely serious,” foreign ministry spokesman Tovar Nunes said.
The new reports came as Snowden faced the logistical nightmare of escaping Russia for a safe haven in Latin America after the leftist leaders of Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua all offered him asylum.
All three have strained ties with Washington and represent Snowden’s best options after his rejection by many of the 27 nations he had applied to for protection.
Washington has urged Russia to hand over Snowden as a gesture of good will because the two sides have no extradition agreement.
President Vladimir Putin—a former KGB spy who has often sparred with the White House during his 13 years in power—has flatly refused and suggested that Snowden had better quickly decide where he wants to go.