UNITED NATIONS (Reu-ters) – Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff used her position as the opening speaker at the UN General Assembly to accuse the United States of violating human rights and international law through espionage that included spying on her email.
Rousseff had expressed her displeasure last week by calling off a high-profile state visit to the United States scheduled for October over reports that the US National Security Agency had been spying on Brazil.
In unusually strong language, Rousseff launched a blistering attack on US surveillance, calling it an affront to Brazilian sovereignty and “totally unacceptable”.
“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,” Rousseff told the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations.
She also proposed an international framework for governing the internet and said Brazil would adopt legislation and technology to protect it from illegal interception of communications.
“Information and telecommunication technologies cannot be the new battlefield between states. 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,” Rousseff said.
US President Barack Obama was en route to the United Nations while Rousseff spoke. Speaking immediately after Rousseff, he avoided direct reference to her criticism.
“We have begun to review the way that we gather intelligence, so as to properly balance the legitimate security concerns of our citizens and allies, with the privacy concerns that all people share,” said Obama, who concentrated mostly on the crisis in Syria and the prospects for a diplomatic opening with Iran.
Rousseff rejected the US government reasoning that the NSA surveillance was aimed at detecting suspected terrorist activity and she accused the agency of engaging in industrial espionage.
Rousseff said she had asked Washington for explanations, an apology and promises the surveillance would never be repeated.
Postponing the state visit was a rare and diplomatically severe snub by Brazil. While foreign leaders frequently visit the White House, state visits are reserved for special occasions and include an elaborate state dinner. No new date has been set.
Rousseff’s state visit was conceived to highlight cooperation between the two biggest economies in the Americas and Brazil’s emergence over the past decade as a regional power.