Inside the U.N. and C.G.I.

09.24.13

Brazilian President Slams U.S. Spying in Front of the Whole World

In an explosive speech at the U.N. General Assembly, Dilma Rousseff accused the United States of ‘espionage’—just before Obama took the stage.

With Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff leading the day’s speeches at the U.N. General Assembly, she used the opportunity at the podium to shame the United States for spying on her country, saying that cyberspace was turning into a battlefield.

“Personal data of citizens was intercepted indiscriminately,” she said in a fiery speech aimed at a room full of world leaders. “Corporate information—often of high economic and even strategic value—was at the center of espionage activity.”

Last week, the Brazilian leader canceled a state visit to Washington, furious over NSA’s reported spying on her country’s communications, including her own personal emails and text messages.

“Without the right to privacy,” she said, “there is no real freedom of speech and freedom of opinion.”

Following President Rousseff’s canceled meeting with Obama—seen as a huge snub to the White House—U.S. officials insisted NSA surveillance was intended to combat terrorism.

Rousseff insisted that her country could protect itself, adding that Brazil does not provide shelter to terrorist groups.

“The arguments that illegal interception of information and data are destined to protect nations against terrorism are unsustainable,” she stated.

Rousseff called for the establishment of a “multilateral mechanism” for the Internet, which she says would promote freedom of speech, privacy, and human rights.

In an awkward fluke of scheduling, President Obama took the stage immediately following the Brazilian leader’s impassioned speech labeling the U.S. as a violator of international laws. “We have begun to review the way that we gather intelligence,” he said near the beginning of his speech, “so as to properly balance the legitimate security concerns of our citizens and allies with the privacy concerns that all people share.”

The two nations share the biggest economies in the Americas, but relations are fragile. Rousseff has demanded that President Obama publicly apologize. But today, it seems, she didn’t get her wish.