Brazil to probe reports of US spying

Brazil said Monday it will investigate reports of US electronic spying on its citizens and called for a multilateral agency to govern the global Internet.

The pledge came after the daily O Globo reported Sunday that the US National Security Agency (NSA) spied on Brazilian residents and companies as well as people traveling in Brazil, citing documents leaked by the fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Earlier documents leaked by Snowden had alleged that the US maintained a vast surveillance system over the US territory, as well as EU offices in Washington and New York and some European countries, such as Germany.

The satellite intelligence collection base in Brasilia was jointly operated "at least until 2002 by the NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency," the report said.

"I have absolutely no doubt" about the veracity of the reports, Communications Minister Paulo Bernardo said.

"Now the circumstances in which this was carried out, the exact form and date, this we must verify," he added.

Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota welcomed Washington's readiness to discuss the issue describing the spying allegations as "extremely serious."

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed the US had "spoken with Brazilian officials regarding these allegations."

But she refused to deny or confirm any details, saying simply "we plan to continue our dialogue with the Brazilians through normal diplomatic channels, but those are conversations that of course we would keep private."

President Dilma Rousseff, who is due to visit the United States later this year, "was very concerned. I would even say outraged," Bernardo said.

The communications minister said Brasilia planned to use the case to seek international support for the creation of a multilateral agency to govern the global internet.

"We need a change in the governance of the Internet. It cannot be governed by a private US entity when we know that this entity is controled by the US government," he added.

Bernardo also said he did not believe the NSA monitoring of Brazilians' telephone and email data was done with the collusion of Brazilian firms.

He met Monday with the head of the National Telecommunications Agency Anatel, João Rezende, ordering him to check whether domestic companies were involved

O Globo said the US facility in Brasilia was part of a network of 16 "Primary Fornsat Collection Operations" maintained by the NSA around the world to intercept transmissions from foreign satellites.

Brazil leases eight satellites.

The daily said it did not have enough evidence to say whether the US operation continued after 2002.

It also published an NSA document dated September 2010 which seemed to indicate the Brazilian embassy in Washington and the Brazilian mission to the UN in New York were targeted by the agency.

Psaki refused to comment on the allegations saying "we're not going to comment publicly on every specific alleged intelligence activity."

The new reports came as the former CIA contractor Snowden, 30, remained in limbo in a Moscow airport as he seeks a safe haven in Latin America having fled the US where he faces three felony charges.

The leftist leaders of Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua, who have strained ties with Washington, have all offered him asylum.

But he cannot leave the airport without a travel document after the US revoked his passport.

Washington has urged Russia to hand him over as a gesture of good will because the two sides have no extradition agreement.

The US has warned "any country where he may be moving in transit, where he could end up and certainly any country that were to grant asylum, that could have an impact, of course, on our bilateral relationship," Psaki said.