White House soothes Brazil over NSA

The Obama administration is making an effort to quell foreign concerns about spying by the National Security Agency (NSA) and other intelligence arms.

On Thursday, National Security Adviser Susan Rice met with Brazil’s foreign minister, Luiz Alberto Figueiredo, to update him on President Obama’s plans to rein in the spy agency.

Rice “outlined the results of the review of U.S. signals intelligence activities, and the reforms to be implemented,” the White House said in a statement.

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The Brazilian government was up in arms last year, after leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden showed that the agency had spied on the phone calls and emails of President Dilma Rousseff.

Rousseff publicly rebuked the administration last year by putting off a state visit to Washington. The trip, planned for October, was scheduled to be Obama’s first of his second term and was expected to feature a lavish state dinner with high-profile guests.

“There is no question that the disclosures have — specifically the disclosures themselves and sometimes the context around them — have caused tensions in relations with a number of countries and we work very aggressively and have worked very aggressively through diplomatic channels to address concerns that countries have,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Thursday.

Obama outlined a series of reforms to surveillance programs at the NSA in a speech earlier this month.

One of the top changes to the agency would end snooping on friendly foreign leaders “unless there is a compelling national security purpose," Obama said.

Though the White House has not specifically said whether the NSA would back off Rousseff, a senior administration official said at the time that they “have made determinations to not pursue surveillance on dozens of heads of state in government.”

Not all foreign leaders have been soothed by the commitment.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was also reportedly the target of the NSA’s snooping, said on Wednesday that the surveillance “sows distrust.”

“In the end there will be less, not more, security,” she added.