Clinton criticizes NSA's reported collection of company data

Former President Clinton criticized the National Security Agency's reported collection of trade secrets from international companies — the second time in less than a week he has chastised the intelligence agency.

His latest remarks were made to a Brazilian newspaper while he was visiting the country for the Clinton Global Initiative.

Documents leaked by Edward Snowden showed the NSA hacked the computer networks of Petrobras, one of Brazil's state-run oil companies.

"We should never collect economic information under the pretext of security," Clinton told O Globo, a newspaper in Rio de Janeiro, according to a translation by the Montreal Gazette.

ADVERTISEMENT
The documents Snowden leaked also revealed that the NSA had spied on Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s emails and phone calls, causing a rift with the foreign leader. In September, the White House announced the countries had jointly agreed to “postpone” Rousseff’s visit to the U.S. over the disclosures.

The Obama administration claims the intelligence community only collects financial and trade data when it was related to terrorist financing.

“What we do not do, as we have said many times, is use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of — or give intelligence we collect to — US companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in a statement in September.

It is a second round of criticism from the former president.

Last Tuesday, he told the Fusion network that he would have “serious reservations” about spying on world leaders and that doing so had hurt relationships with allies across the globe.

“I do think that the stories about the data collection has had a damaging effect,” Clinton said. “And not just in Latin America, but in Europe and Asia.”

Clinton said that the government lacked the capability to carry out large-scale surveillance during his presidency, and encouraged a public discussion on the practice.

“What we need here is more transparency and more privacy and more security,” he said. “We’re getting in a position here where people didn’t know what was going on. And the way the data’s been handled, it’s not clear that it’s maximized our security, and it’s perfectly clear that it’s eroded some people’s sense of privacy. So I think the most important thing we can do now is have a really public discussion about what the rules should be.”

Clinton met with Rousseff while in the country. From Brazil, he plans to travel to South Africa to attend a memorial service for Nelson Mandela where he will join President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush, Laura Bush, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other leaders in honoring the anti-apartheid hero.