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Brazil seeks U.S. response to alleged spying on citizens

An undated aerial handout photo shows the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland. REUTERS/NSA/Handout
An undated aerial handout photo shows the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland. REUTERS/NSA/Handout

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazil will demand an explanation from the United States over report its citizens' electronic communications have been under surveillance by U.S. spy agencies for at least a decade, foreign minister Antonio Patriota said on Sunday.

Patriota's remarks were in response to a report in the Globo daily newspaper on Sunday saying that the U.S. National Security Agency has been monitoring the telephone and e-mail activity of Brazilian companies and individuals as part of U.S. espionage activities.

The report cited documents obtained from U.S. fugitive Edward Snowden, a former NSA intelligence contractor.

Patriota also said his government plans to propose changes to international communications rules administered by the Geneva-based International Telecommunications Union to improve communications secrecy, the statement said. Brazil also plans to present proposals to the United Nations to protect the privacy of electronic communication.

"The Brazilian government is gravely concerned by the news that electronic and telephone communications of Brazilian citizens are the objective of espionage efforts by U.S. intelligence agencies," a foreign ministry statement said.

The Globo report did not say how much traffic was monitored by NSA computers and intelligence officials. But the article pointed out that in the Americas, Brazil was second only to the United States in the number of transmissions intercepted.

Brazil was a priority nation for the NSA communications surveillance alongside China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan, Globo said.

In the 10-year period, the NSA captured 2.3 billion phone calls and messages in the United States and then used computers to analyze them for signs of suspicious activity, the paper said. In the United States, the NSA used legal but secret warrants to compel communications companies to turn over information about calls and emails for analysis.

Some access to Brazilian communications was obtained through American companies that were partners with Brazilian telecommunications companies, the paper reported, without identifying the companies.

The Globo article was written by Glenn Greenwald, Roberto Kaz and José Casado. Greenwald, an American who works for Britain's Guardian newspaper and lives in Rio de Janeiro, was the journalist who first revealed classified documents provided by Snowden, outlining the extent of U.S. communications monitoring activity at home and abroad.

After providing the information to Greenwald, Snowden fled the United States for Hong Kong and was most recently seen in the transit area of the Moscow airport.

Snowden's U.S. passport has been revoked. He has made asylum requests to several countries, including Ecuador, Venezuela and Bolivia. Three countries - Bolivia, Venezuela and Nicaragua - have offered to give Snowden asylum.

(Reporting by Jeb Blount; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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