UNITED NATIONS – Delivering a harsh indictment of U.S. cybersurveillance, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff on Tuesday called on the United Nations to get involved with helping nations safeguard themselves from cybersnooping by other countries.
“Information and telecommunication technologies cannot be the new battlefield between states,” said Rousseff, who delivered the opening address at the 68th U.N. General Assembly.
“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.”
Rousseff was responding to leaks by former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden that indicated the U.S. agency intercepted her communications with Cabinet members as well as those of Brazil’s U.N. mission and Petrobras, Brazil’s state-run oil company.
“Personal data of citizens was intercepted indiscriminately,” she said during her sharply worded and sternly delivered speech.
Such tampering, she said, is a “breach of international law and is an affront to the principles that must guide the relations among (countries), especially among friendly nations.”
She said it violated civil and human rights, and showed lack of respect for national sovereignty.
So incensed was Rousseff about the NSA revelations that last week she postponed a state visit to Washington scheduled for Oct. 23.
President Obama immediately followed her on the U.N. podium.
While there was no immediate reaction from the United States on Rousseff’s address, Obama’s U.N. speech included this nod to her concerns: “We’ve begun to review the way that we gather intelligence so that we properly balance the legitimate security concerns of our citizens and allies with the privacy concerns that all people share.”
Rousseff said Brazil had demanded of the U.S. “explanations, apologies and guarantees that such procedures will never be repeated.” Brazil, she said, “knows how to protect itself. We reject, fight and do not harbor terrorist groups.”
Obama has promised a review of NSA procedures, but so far Rousseff’s trip to Washington hasn’t been rescheduled.
In her speech, Rousseff also alluded to her past as a guerrilla when she was captured and tortured by the Brazilian military dictatorship in the early 1970s.
“As many other Latin Americans, I fought against authoritarianism and censorship, and I cannot but defend, in an uncompromising fashion, the right to privacy of individuals and the sovereignty of my country,” she said.
Brazil isn’t the only nation caught up in the NSA flap. There are allegations that the NSA also snooped on the personal communications of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and that German intelligence agencies cooperated with the NSA on digital surveillance.