WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – The White House tried yesterday to smooth over a diplomatic row with Brazil, pledging to address concerns caused by reports that the United States had spied on President Dilma Rousseff and hacked into the computer networks of state-run oil company Petrobras.
Susan Rice, President Barack Obama’s national security advisor, met with Brazilian Foreign Minister Luiz Alberto Figueiredo to discuss Brazil’s questions about documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
“The United States is committed to working with Brazil to address these concerns, while we continue to work together on a shared agenda of bilateral, regional and global initiatives,” said Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council, in a statement
Rice told Figueiredo that the United States understands why Brazil is upset, and said some of the news reports from the leaked information “have distorted our activities” but other disclosures “raise legitimate questions for our friends and allies about how these capabilities are employed,” said Hayden.
Figueiredo had no comment on his meeting with Rice, a spokesman at the Brazilian embassy said, but noted he would remain overnight in Washington for further talks with the U.S. government on Thursday.
Obama has been heavily criticized at home and abroad since Snowden disclosed secret details about telephone and e-mail information gathered by the NSA.
He has had to appease allies including Rousseff and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and has pledged to improve oversight of the surveillance programs to try to restore trust in the system among Americans.
Rousseff met with Obama last week during the G20 summit in Russia, and said she wanted to “know everything” about the NSA’s activities in Brazil.
Rousseff is scheduled to make a state visit to the White House next month, but the furor in Brazil over the spying revelations has prompted speculation she could cancel the trip.