Skip to main content

As Brazil's uproar over NSA grows, U.S. vows to work through tensions

By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
updated 5:10 AM EDT, Thu September 12, 2013
U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice told Brazilian Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo concerns will be addressed.
U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice told Brazilian Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo concerns will be addressed.
  • National Security Advisor Susan Rice meets with Brazil's foreign minister
  • Anger is growig in Brazil over reports of NSA spying
  • Lawmakers say they plan to go to Russia and speak with Edward Snowden
  • Reports claim the NSA spied on Brazil's president, state oil company Petrobras

(CNN) -- As the furor mounts in Brazil over reports that the United States spied on President Dilma Rousseff and her advisers, the South American country's foreign minister was in Washington on Wednesday.

U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice told Brazilian Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo that the United States is committed to working with Brazil to address its concerns, the White House said in a statement.

But in Brazil, debate over media reports about alleged National Security Agency spying showed no signs of cooling.

Brazilian lawmakers say they plan to send a commission to Russia to speak directly with former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who reportedly leaked documents cited in Brazilian media reports about the alleged espionage operations.

Reports from Globo TV citing Glenn Greenwald, a Brazil-based journalist who obtained documents from Snowden, claim that Rousseff and the state oil company Petrobras were among the targets of the NSA.

Why are Brazil, Mexico angry with NSA?
NSA surveillance revelations
Open Mic: Russians on Edward Snowden

CNN has not independently verified the reports, which drew sharp condemnation from Brazilian officials this month.

A foreign relations committee in Brazil's Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday approved a trip for lawmakers to travel to Moscow and interview Snowden over the matter, state-run Agencia Brasil reported.

Lawmaker Ivan Valente said authorities wanted more information, not just what had been leaked to the media.

"The leaked information is an issue of national sovereignty," he said, according to Agencia Brasil. "First, Brazilian citizens were spied on. Then companies, the president of the republic, ministers and now Petrobras."

Earlier this month, Brazil summoned the U.S. ambassador over the reports. And Rousseff has threatened to cancel her scheduled state visit to Washington in October.

In Washington, officials emphasized U.S.-Brazil ties, while acknowledging the tension over the spying claims.

'"National Security Advisor Rice expressed to Foreign Minister Figueiredo that the United States understands that recent disclosures in the press -- some of which have distorted our activities and some of which raise legitimate questions for our friends and allies about how these capabilities are employed -- have created tensions in the very strong bilateral relationship we have with Brazil," the White House said in a statement.

Reports from Brazil's Globo TV over the alleged espionage have also drawn Mexico's ire, with allegations that the NSA spied on Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto.

U.S. President Barack Obama said he promised to look into the allegations when he spoke with Peña Nieto and Rousseff at last week's G-20 summit in St. Petersburg.

"What I assured President Rousseff and President Peña Nieto is...that I take these allegations very seriously," Obama told reporters. "I understand their concerns; I understand the concerns of the Mexican and Brazilian people, and that we will work with their teams to resolve what is a source of tension."

The diplomatic tensions with Brazil and Mexico are the latest international fallout over documents leaked by Snowden, who faces espionage charges in the United States and is now living in Russia after authorities there granted him temporary asylum.

Reports of U.S. espionage also roiled European officials over the summer after Germany's Der Spiegel and Britain's The Guardian published stories alleging that the NSA had targeted European government offices.

Part of complete coverage on
Data mining & privacy
updated 10:25 AM EDT, Sun June 23, 2013
He's a high-school dropout who worked his way into the most secretive computers in U.S. intelligence as a defense contractor.
updated 8:26 AM EDT, Thu May 29, 2014
Traitor or patriot? Low-level systems analyst or highly trained spy?
updated 3:27 PM EDT, Thu May 29, 2014
What are the takeaways from Snowden's NBC interview? You might be surprised.
updated 7:52 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Months after accepting asylum in Russia, Snowden asked Putin about Moscow's own surveillance practices.
updated 12:43 PM EDT, Wed March 12, 2014
A federal judge has refused the Obama administration's request to extend storage of classified NSA telephone surveillance data beyond the current five-year limit.
updated 8:44 PM EDT, Sun March 9, 2014
From his sanctuary in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Julian Assange said that everyone in the world will be just as effectively monitored soon -- at least digitally.
updated 8:39 PM EDT, Mon March 10, 2014
In a rare public talk via the Web, fugitive NSA leaker Edward Snowden urged a tech conference audience to help "fix" the U.S. government's surveillance of its citizens.
updated 11:55 PM EDT, Thu August 1, 2013
The White House is "very disappointed" that National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden has been granted temporary asylum in Russia.
updated 8:57 AM EST, Tue December 10, 2013
Spies with surveillance agencies in the U.S. and U.K. infiltrated video games like "World of Warcraft" in a hunt for terrorists "hiding in plain sight" online.
updated 7:39 AM EDT, Fri August 2, 2013
Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden both held jobs that gave them access to some of their country's most secret and sensitive intelligence. They chose to share that material with the world and are now paying for it.
updated 10:35 AM EDT, Thu August 1, 2013
The NSA's controversial intelligence-gathering programs have prevented 54 terrorist attacks around the world, including 13 in the United States.
updated 2:54 PM EDT, Thu August 1, 2013
You've never heard of XKeyscore, but it definitely knows you. The National Security Agency's top-secret program essentially makes available everything you've ever done on the Internet.
updated 9:04 AM EDT, Sun August 18, 2013
You may have never heard of Lavabit and Silent Circle. That's because they offered encrypted (secure) e-mail services, something most Americans have probably never thought about needing.
updated 2:54 PM EDT, Wed July 24, 2013
"Any analyst at any time can target anyone. Any selector, anywhere ... I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone."
updated 9:56 AM EDT, Tue July 2, 2013
President Barack Obama responds to outrage by European leaders over revelations of alleged U.S. spying.
updated 3:54 PM EDT, Fri August 29, 2014
Browse through a history of high-profile intelligence leaking cases.
updated 10:37 AM EDT, Tue July 2, 2013
Former President George W. Bush talks Snowden, AIDS, Mandela and his legacy.
updated 9:04 AM EDT, Wed June 26, 2013
Edward Snowden took a job with an NSA contractor in order to gather evidence about U.S. surveillance programs.
updated 6:47 AM EDT, Wed June 19, 2013
With reports of NSA snooping, many people have started wondering about their personl internet security.
updated 9:52 AM EDT, Wed August 14, 2013
Click through our gallery to learn about other major leaks and what happened in the aftermath.
updated 4:02 PM EDT, Sun June 9, 2013
What really goes on inside America's most secretive agency? CNN's Chris Lawrence reports.