Edward Snowden extends a helping hand to Brazil, hoping for asylum

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman, this is "The World". Edward Snowden hasn't shown much interest in staying in Russia, but the NSA leaker does seem interested in moving to Brazil, judging by an open letter to Brazil he's published online, offering to help the country investigate NSA spying on Brazilian soil. Snowden was thrust back into the spotlight yesterday, by a ruling in a case involving one of the NSA programs he helped expose. Federal Judge Richard Leon's opinion stated that the NSA's bulk collection of millions of Americans phone records is probably unconstitutional. Sioban Gorman has been covering the Snowden saga for the Wall Street Journal.

Sioban Gorman: He is obviously seeking asylum from any number of countries that would provide a better landing spot than Moscow seems to be and he's discussed possibly Germany - Brazil seems probably more likely to come to pass than Germany, but even for Brazil to make a decision like that, they're going to weigh the domesticate reception that such a decision would have with the international costs to upsetting relations with the US further.

Werman: So, what do you make of Snowden's open letter that went online today to the people of Brazil?

Gorman: Mr. Snowden goes through the last six months of what he has done through his perspective, what he feels he saw were the injustices that the NSA was conducting, in this case toward Brazil, and he goes on to say that he doesn't think that that promotes the safety of anybody, and so he offers his services, if you will, to help Brazil, to investigate further the extent of NSA spying as it pertains Brazilian interests.

Werman: I gather he's never made the same offer to Russia, where he's living right now. Did you see an Edward Snowden in this open letter that you know?

Gorman: Remember, Brazil is where Glenn Greenwald lives, and so there's a little bit more significance to that country in this whole discussion than there might otherwise be, but this is pretty consistent with what Mr. Snowden has been pursuing, which is his view that NSA has vastly overreached and it has - when it comes to spying domestically, as well as internationally, and Mr. Snowden has certainly made this at least as much an international story as he has a domestic one.

Werman: So, here he's basically raising the possibility of asylum in Brazil in this letter. Walk us back, Siobhan, to how we got to this point with Snowden.

Gorman: This started back in May, when Mr. Snowden summoned Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald and there was another Guardian reporter who joined them as well, to a hotel in Hong Kong and they didn't know what to expect and he presented with all of these documents and his explanation at that point as to what they said. He was then hold up in Hong Kong for awhile and the US was trying to prevail on the government not to let him go, yet he made his way to Moscow where he is currently on a year-long visa, and he has since been pursuing asylum requests with various countries. I think there are probably more than a dozen.

Werman: And the court ruling yesterday from Judge Leon, that the surveillance programs might very likely be unconstitutional - does that indicate that Snowden's star is now rising?

Gorman: Well it certainly indicates that the pushback to the original Snowden disclosures, particularly from the government came, saying that this is all legal, this is overseen by three branches of government, there's nothing to be concerned about, and what we're now seeing is a Judge who wasn't allowed into that elite club - he takes a look at it and says, "Well, maybe the members of the club were wrong, and maybe this really does violate the 4th amendment." It parallels what we've seen on Capitol Hill where we've seen the leaders of the intelligence committees say, "Look, we've been tracking this for years, it's all fine," and then you see leaders on the Judiciary Committee, who haven't been tracking it for years and didn't know the details and have only learned them recently say, "This is not okay with us, we need to overhaul this program."

Werman: Do you think he'll ever get asylum in the US? There has been amnesty mentioned in the sidelines over the last few days.

Gorman: Never say never, but I don't see any indication of that happening any time soon.

Werman: Siobhan Gorman covers intelligence issues for The Wall Street Journal, thanks very much for your time.

Gorman: Thank you.