Friday, November 1, 2013

Global Impact: Snowden Agrees to Visit Berlin to Help in US Eavesdropping of Chancellor Merkel

According to Reuters, German lawmaker Hans-Christian Stroebele, 74, a legislator for the opposition Greens Party said he met with NSA contractor Edward Snowden in Moscow on Thursday (October 31) and that Snowden, who has been granted asylum by Russia where he is now working as an IT specialist, was willing to come to Germany to assist investigations into alleged US surveillance of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Stroebele told German broadcaster ARD it was clear Snowden "knew a lot" and that he would share details of their surprise meeting including a letter from Snowden addressed to the German government and chief federal prosecutor.

Stroebele reportedly tweeted a photograph of himself and Snowden with ARD depicting the two shaking hands in a room before their three-hour meeting. 

COMMENT: Stroebele  visited Russia after top US and German security officials met in Washington to try to ease tensions caused by reports that NSA, for which Snowden worked, monitored Merkel's mobile phone. 

Stroebele sits on the German Parliament's control committee, which monitors the work of intelligence agencies worldwide.

Germany's parliament will hold a special session on November 18 to discuss the eavesdropping of Merkel's mobile phone by NSA. The Green Party and the far-left Left Party have demanded a public inquiry calling in witnesses, including Snowden. Stroebele said Snowden could provide evidence elerctronically from Moscow.

Snowden's revelations about the reach and methods of the NSA, including the monitoring of vast volumes of Internet traffic and phone records, have angered US allies from perhaps two dozen countries.

Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected US pleas to send Snowden home to face charges including espionage, and instead have granted him temporary asylum which can be extended annually.

However, Putin, a former KGB spy, has said repeatedly that Russia would shelter Snowden only if he stopped harming the United States. That could make it very difficult for Snowden to speak to any German Parliamentary inquiry.

Gregor Gysi, parliamentary leader of the Left, has said Germany should include Snowden in its witness protection program so he could speak before the Committee.

Stroebele, a distinctive figure in Germany with his white hair, bright red scarf and common touch, is a lawyer by training and once defended members of Germany's far-left Baader-Meinhof gang that emerged from the student protest and anti-Vietnam war movements in West Germany in the 1960s.

Although Germany and the US have been close allies for decades, Chancellor Merkel  is very concerned that the NSA would eavesdrop on her conversations and has demanded a US explanation. 

Washington in turn has acknowledged that it is not now currently eavesdropping on Merkel's conversations, but has said that it has done so in the past, which is an admission that has serious repercussions on US-German trust.

Sadly, the NSA's widespread electronic surveillance of virtually everyone on Earth is hardly a way of building trust multilaterally. In the end, it will potentially make the work of US diplomats that much more arduous.  

As I have so often said in the past, "The only thing we can take to our grave is our integrity and reputation. Everything else is left behind."