1 Nov 2013

Snowden offers to give evidence to Germany on US spying

Ex-NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has written to Angela Merkel saying he is prepared to help the German government investigate the activities of the US spy agencies.

Germany is considering launching a public inquiry after it was alleged that America’s National Security Agency – Mr Snowden’s former employer – monitored the chancellor’s mobile phone.

Ms Merkel made a complaint to US President Barack Obama over the allegations last week, and German federal prosecutors are considering whether there are grounds for a criminal case.

German prosecutors and politicians could try to call Moscow-based Snowden as a star witness, but he would be unlikely to travel to the country without assurances that he would not be sent back to the the US under the country’s extradition treaty with Germany.

Snowden gave the letter to German MP Hans-Christian Stroebele after the two men met in Moscow. The 30-year-old computer expert faces espionage charges in the US for leaking top secret details of American surveillance programmes.

I am confident that with the support of the international community, the government of the United States will abandon this harmful behaviour. Edward Snowden

He fled the country in May and was finally granted asylum in Russia in August after being stranded at a Moscow airport for more than a month.

It was reported on Friday that Snowden, who claimed to have earned $200,000 a year working for US intelligence, has found a job in Moscow working in the technical support department of a major Russian website.

In the letter Snowden writes: “Though the outcome of my efforts has been demonstrably positive, my government continues to treat dissent as defection, and seeks to criminalise political speech with felony charges that provide no defence.

“I am confident that with the support of the international community, the government of the United States will abandon this harmful behaviour.

 Hans-Christian Stroebele with the Snowden letter (Reuters)

“I look forward to speaking with you in your country when the situation is resolved, and thank you for your efforts in upholding the international laws that protect us all.”

Germany’s interior minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich said: “If the message is that Mr Snowden wants to give us information, then we will be glad to accept that.

We will find a way to make a conversation possible if Mr Snowden is prepared to talk to German officials

Thomas Oppermann, a politician who heads a parliamentary panel that oversees German intelligence, said: “If there is a possibility to question Mr Snowden as a witness without causing any more troubles to him and without damaging the German-American relations, then I would like to take on this possibility.”

Snowden’s revelations about the monitoring of huge volumes of internet traffic and phone records have angered many of America’s allies, but this is the first known meeting between the whistleblower and a foreign politician.

Kerry: spying may have gone too far

US Secretary of State John Kerry become the most senior member of the Obama administration to comment on the row on Thursday when he said: “Some of these actions have reached too far and we are going to make sure that that does not happen in the future.”

He added: “There is no question that the president and I, and others in government, have actually learned of some things that have been happening – in many ways on automatic pilot because the technology is there and the ability has been there over the course of a long period of time, really going back to world war two and to the very difficult years of the Soviet Union, of the cold war.

“And then of course of 9/11, the attack on the United states and the rise of radical extremism in the world that is hell-bent, determined on trying to kill people and blow people up and attack governments.

“We have actually prevented aeroplanes from going down, buildings being blown up and people from being assassinated because we’ve been able to learn ahead of time of the plans.

“The president – our president – is determined to try to clarify and make clear for the people that he is now doing a thorough review, in order that nobody will have a sense of abuse.”