Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Global Impact: Update--Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff Attacks US at UN General Assembly

As a follow-up to my numerous postings of late concerning Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's consternation with the US over NSA economic espionage of Rousseff and Brazil's largest energy company, Petrobras, publicly criticized Washington at the United Nations General Assembly earlier this week.  

In her remarks, President Rousseff launched a blistering attack on US espionage at the UN, accusing the NSA of violating international law by its indiscriminate collection of personal information of Brazilian citizens and economic espionage targeted on the country's strategic industries.

COMMENT: Rousseff had already put off a planned visit to Washington in protest at US spying, after NSA documents leaked by NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the US electronic eavesdropping agency had monitored the Brazilian president's phone calls, as well as Brazilian embassies and spied on the state oil corporation, Petrobras.

"Personal data of citizens was intercepted indiscriminately. Corporate information – often of high economic and even strategic value – was at the center of espionage activity," Rousseff emphasized.

Also, Brazilian diplomatic missions, among them the permanent mission to the UN and the office of the president of the republic itself, had their communications intercepted," Rousseff said, in a global rallying cry against what she portrayed as the overweening power of the US security apparatus.

"Tampering in such a manner in the affairs of other countries is a breach of international law and is an affront of the principles that must guide the relations among them, especially among friendly nations. A sovereign nation can never establish itself to the detriment of another sovereign nation. The right to safety of citizens of one country can never be guaranteed by violating fundamental human rights of citizens of another country."

Washington's efforts to smooth over Brazilian outrage over NSA espionage have so far been rebuffed by Rousseff, who has proposed that Brazilian build its own internet infrastructure. "Friendly governments and societies that seek to build a true strategic partnership, as in our case, cannot allow recurring illegal actions to take place as if they were normal. They are unacceptable," she said.

"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," the Brazilian president said. She was imprisoned and tortured for her role in a guerrilla movement opposed to Brazil's military dictatorship in the 1970s.

Rousseff called on the UN oversee a new global legal system to govern the internet. She said such multilateral mechanisms should guarantee the "freedom of expression, privacy of the individual and respect for human rights" and the "neutrality of the network, guided only by technical and ethical criteria, rendering it inadmissible to restrict it for political, commercial, religious or any other purposes."

Unfortunately, it is presumptuous of the UN to believe it can regulate the affairs of a sovereign state [i.e., the US], although admittedly, on the face of it, it was imprudent of Washington to use resources designed to combat terrorism for more nefarious purposes, particularly as they relate to a friendly nation.

President Barack Obama, by continuing to drag his feet in responding to President Rousseff in writing, has simply escalated Rousseff's angst. 

It would be far better for President Obama to promptly call Rousseff and apologize for the NSA's behavior, although clearly electronic surveillance of a foreign head of state, for whatever purpose, would have to be authorized by Obama himself, in which case he should personally apologize and explain why the economic espionage was authorized.

Like sending a contentious email to a known person, Washington erred in sloppily doing a substandard background investigation on Snowden, not realizing that it was his intention all along to leak sensitive NSA information. Snowden's revelations subsequently embarrassed President Obama in the eyes of the world, resulting in several eggs now being on Mr. Obama's face.

Finally, it is very doubtful that President Rousseff's position on the United Nations having standing to oversee the Internet is very unlikely, although, unfortunately, there may well be more foreign governments that are critical of the NSA global surveillance program, namely, China and Russia, for Rousseff's proposal to potentially gain traction.