After meeting with German parliamentarian Hans-Christian Ströbele in Moscow on Thursday, Edward Snowden offered his assistance in an upcoming German inquiry into the NSA spying on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s private phone calls by indicating his willingness to testify. Ströbele left the meeting with a letter from Snowden, which was delivered to Merkel and published in the German media on Friday.
In his letter, Snowden wrote “my government continues to treat dissent as defection, and seeks to criminalize political speech with felony charges that provide no defense. However, speaking the truth is not a crime. I am confident that with the support of the international community, the government of the United States will abandon this harmful behavior.” (The full text of the letter is included at the end of this article)
If Snowden does offer some form of testimony during the hearing scheduled for November 18, it will more than likely be done remotely. Snowden is currently living under asylum in Russia, and if he chose to go to Germany to testify, he would lose his refugee status.
While many officials in Germany have welcomed the news of a possible Snowden testimony, those in Washington are not as thrilled. Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council of the United States, reiterated the fact in a DW interview that Washington is still seeking to prosecute Snowden in the US.
Jackson Janes, Director of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS) at Johns Hopkins University in Washington commented that “if [a Snowden testimony in Germany] really happens, it would be a slap in the face to the Americans, there’s no question about that… It’s the same as with Moscow, where they have permitted Snowden to remain – and it could mean: We do not trust you.”
There has also been talk about Snowden possibly leaving Russia, along with his refugee status, to testify in person, with the hope of seeking asylum in Germany. Based on the response of his lawyer though, it seems unlikely as he mentioned that Snowden is now attending events, learning the language, and building a new life in Russia.
We have included the full text of Snowden’s letter to Merkel and the German public below, and will provide an update on this story when the November 18 inquiry takes place.
To whom it may concern,
I have been invited to write to you regarding your investigation of mass surveillance.
I am Edward Joseph Snowden, formerly employed through contracts or direct hire as a technical expert for the United States National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, and Defense Intelligence Agency.
In the course of my service to these organizations, I believe I witnessed systemic violations of law by my government that created a moral duty to act. As a result of reporting these concerns, I have face a severe and sustained campaign of persecution that forced me from my family and home. I am currently living in exile under a grant of temporary asylum in the Russian Federation in accordance with international law.
I am heartened by the response to my act of political expression, in both the United States and beyond. Citizens around the world as well as high officials – including in the United States – have judged the revelation of an unaccountable system of pervasive surveillance to be a public service. These spying revelations have resulted in the proposal of many new laws and policies to address formerly concealed abuses of the public trust. The benefits to society of this growing knowledge are becoming increasingly clear at the same time claimed risks are being shown to have been mitigated.
Though the outcome of my efforts has been demonstrably positive, my government continues to treat dissent as defection, and seeks to criminalize political speech with felony charges that provide no defense. However, speaking the truth is not a crime. I am confident that with the support of the international community, the government of the United States will abandon this harmful behavior. I hope that when the difficulties of this humanitarian situation have been resolved, I will be able to cooperate in the responsible finding of fact regarding reports in the media, particularly in regard to the truth and authenticity of documents, as appropriate and in accordance with the law.
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.
With my best regards,
31 October 2013