In a furious critique that opened the UN’s General Assembly meeting Tuesday immediately before President Obama took the podium, Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff blasted U.S. secret surveillance programs for violating her country’s national sovereignty, attacking its democracy, and infringing on the human rights of its citizens.
“In the absence of the right to privacy, there can be no true freedom of expression and opinion, and therefore no effective democracy,” she declared in her strongest statements yet in the fallout following revelations that the NSA had directly spied on Rousseff. “In the absence of the respect for sovereignty, there is no basis for the relationship among nations.”
“Tampering in such a manner in the lives and affairs of other countries is a breach of international law and, as such, it is an affront to the principles that should otherwise govern relations among countries, especially among friendly nations,” she charged.
“The right to safety of citizens of one country can never be guaranteed by violating fundamental human rights of citizens of another country,” Rousseff continued.
Rousseff scoffed at efforts by the U.S. government to justify broad NSA spying as a vital protection against terrorism: “The arguments that the illegal interception of information and data aims at protecting nations against terrorism cannot be sustained.”
She demanded international legal norms for protecting Brazil and other nations against these violations of privacy and reiterated her commitment to protecting domestic communications networks from U.S. interception by storing Brazilian data locally. “The 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,” she said.
Her statements come after she canceled a trip to the U.S. last week over the NSA spying revelations in a rare diplomatic rift between two close allies.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald writing for Brazilian paper Journo O Globo revealed in early September that the NSA had used its powers to directly intercept the communications of Rousseff and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.
In his speech immediately following Rousseff’s, President Obama did not directly acknowledge Rousseff’s criticisms.