Snowden may aid Germany on US spying details. Is Berlin visit in the cards?
The ex-NSA contractor met with a German parliamentarian yesterday, and offered to aid Berlin in its investigation of US spying on Angela Merkel and Germany.
Ex-National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden says he's willing to visit Germany and testify about US spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel and other matters about which he "knows a lot," according to a German parliamentarian who visited with him at an undisclosed location in Moscow Thursday.Skip to next paragraph
Fred Weir has been the Monitor's Moscow correspondent, covering Russia and the former Soviet Union, since 1998.
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A top German security official, Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, said Friday that Germany is willing to receive Mr. Snowden's input. "We will find a way to make a conversation possible if Mr. Snowden is prepared to talk to German officials," Mr. Friedrich is quoted as saying.
Hans-Christian Ströbele, a Green member of the Bundestag, says he held extensive discussions with Snowden and was handed a typewritten letter – released Friday at a Berlin press conference – from the fugitive ex-CIA employee to deliver to Ms. Merkel, the German parliament, and federal prosecutors. The letter expressed his willingness to come and testify "when the situation is resolved."
"He expressed his principle readiness to help clarify the situation. Basis for this is what we must create. That’s what we discussed for a long time and from all angles," Ströbele said. "He is essentially prepared to come to Germany and give testimony, but the conditions must be discussed."
Germany, which was one of many countries to deny Snowden's request for asylum back in July when he was frantically trying to find a place of refuge, would have to grant him safe passage to come and talk about the claims of NSA spying on Merkel and millions of German citizens. That would undoubtedly infuriate the US and could turn the current brouhaha over the surveillance allegations into a more serious crisis.
Russia's independent Interfax news agency quoted an expert source as saying that German prosecutors might travel to Russia to depose Snowden, or even pass written questions to him, and thus sidestep the problem of travel.
Journalists attending Ströbele's press conference in Berlin Friday tweeted that, according to the MP, it is possible the Bundestag will issue a safe-conduct pass to Snowden, which it is empowered to do for witnesses in parliamentary inquiries. Ströbele also quoted Snowden as saying that he would much rather testify before the US Congress than the German Bundestag, if he were given the choice.
Since being granted a year's political asylum in Russia in August, Snowden has gradually become more visible. Earlier this month he was visited by his father and a group of US whistleblowers and has been photographed by a security services-linked Russian news agency, Lifenews.ru, shopping for groceries and taking a cruise on the Moscow River.
On Thursday, Snowden's Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena said his client has found a job with a leading Russian website, which he will begin doing in November. He declined to name the company "for security reasons."
Speculation about his new employer has centered around the Russian knockoff of Facebook, VKontakte, whose founder Pavel Durov has been an outspoken defender of Snowden. "We invite Edward to St. Petersburg [where VKontakte is based] and will be delighted if he decides to complete VKontakte's star team of programmers," the organization's founder, Pavel Durov, wrote on his VKontakte page in early August.
VKontakte is one of Russia's largest websites, claiming 220 million registered users and 53 million daily users.
According to the official RIA-Novosti agency, the country's two other main websites, Yandex and Mail.ru, have categorically denied hiring Snowden.