4 November 2013, 03:31

Top US lawmakers refuse clemency for Edward Snowden

Top US lawmakers refuse clemency for Edward Snowden

Senior American lawmakers said on Sunday that intelligence leaker Edward Snowden should not be given clemency by the United States following his disclosures of widespread government surveillance.

The heads of the Senate and House intelligence committees spoke just days after a German lawmaker published a letter from the fugitive and said Snowden was ready to testify to Congress to shed light on "possibly serious offenses". Senator Dianne Feinstein said, in an interview with CBS television's "Face the Nation" news show, that he had missed his chance to do so.

"He had an opportunity, if what he was was a whistleblower, to pick up the phone and call the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee and say, 'Look, I have some information you ought to see,'" Feinstein said.

"We would have seen him and we would have looked at that information. That didn't happen and now he's done this enormous disservice to our country," the California Democrat added. "And I think the answer is no clemency."

She said Snowden should be prosecuted.

The former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor was granted asylum in Russia in August to the fury of the United States, where he is wanted on espionage charges.

Congressman Mike Rogers, a Republican, said he didn't see "any reason" to clear Snowden of any possible charges. "If he wants to come back and own up to the responsibility of the fact that he took and stole information, he violated his oath, he disclosed classified information... I'd be happy to have that discussion with him," Rogers said. "But he does need to own up to what he's done and if he wants to talk through why he did it and those things, that would be the appropriate time and the appropriate way to do it."

German Green Party lawmaker Hans-Christian Stroebele met with Snowden late Thursday at an undisclosed location in Moscow to discuss his revelations that Washington monitored German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cellphone, a matter that caused uproar in Europe.

Snowden hopes intelligence outings will improve society

The fugitive ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden believes that society may benefit from the exposures he gave to US mass surveillance and the ensuing global furor that will in the long run force governments to patch up gaps in anti-spy laws.

Der Spiegel has published a short opinion piece by Edward Snowden that followed the whistleblower’s meeting with German MP Hans-Christian Ströbele in Moscow on October 31.

In his five-paragraph Freedom Manifesto the leaker calls on nations to fight against any sorts of blackout on events that are of major social importance. Those who tell the truth are not criminals, Snowden stresses.

The spy scandal peaked this summer when the media released the first batch of highly-classified leaks about global data scooping programs run by the US National Security Agency.

It emerged recently that American intelligence was wiretapping the phones both of regular people and some 35 foreign leaders, including Germany’s Americanophile Chancellor, Angela Merkel.

The outage caused several EU countries to give vent to their irritation over the White House practice. A series of internal checks to estimate the damage are also planned by major European intelligence agencies.

Edward Snowden believes these checks can only benefit society at large as they are bound to prompt political and legislative reforms.

The activist thinks the changes will also tighten controls on intelligence agencies. He said in his message that spy technologies should not determine policies. "Our duty is to take care that our laws and moral values limit surveillance programs and protect human rights," he wrote.

Swiss lawmakers planning to meet Snowden in Moscow

A group of Swiss lawmakers plan to travel to Moscow to ask fugitive intelligence leaker Edward Snowden about his undercover work in Geneva, a media report said on Saturday.

A group of Swiss lawmakers plan to travel to Moscow to ask fugitive intelligence leaker Edward Snowden about his undercover work in Geneva, a media report said on Saturday.

A Swiss parliamentarian with the Socialist Party, Carlo Sommaruga, said in an interview with the local RTS television that, along with a group of colleagues from other parties, they are planning to visit Russia to get first-hand details about what the US intelligence services were doing in the country when Snowden worked under a diplomatic cover in Switzerland in 2007. The lawmaker expressed concern that the American agency might be still engaged in intelligence work in the country.

Snowden was hired by the CIA in 2006 for a technology job and later worked in Geneva under the cover of the US State Department.

The former National Security Agency contractor told the Guardian newspaper in June that much of what he saw in Geneva “really disillusioned me about how my government functions and what its impact is in the world”.

Snowden was granted temporary one-year asylum by Russia in August after he arrived in Moscow on a flight from Hong Kong where he fled after disclosing reams of the classified documents to the media.

This week, Snowden was back in the news after he met with German lawmaker Hans-Christian Ströbele in Moscow who said the former CIA employee had offered to testify to German lawmakers about information leaked by him about the US spying on Germany.

Snowden to Merkel: 'my government continues to treat dissent as defection'

Former CIA and NSA contractor, Edward Snowden has written to Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel about the controversy of leaked US surveillance secrets. "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," he says in the letter.

"I look forward to speaking with you in your country once the situation is resolved and thank you for your efforts to uphold international law, which protects us all," Snowden wrote in a letter.

The German authorities were prepared to meet Edward Snowden, Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said Friday.

"If Snowden is willing to talk to German authorities then we will find ways," he said.

When Snowden wanted to provide information, "we will willingly accept it," said Friedrich.

A German lawmaker who met Edward Snowden in Moscow on Thursday says the NSA leaker has offered to testify in front of the US Congress. "He didn't present himself as an enemy of America, quite the opposite," German MP Hans-Christian Stroebele told reporters in Berlin today.

German MP meets Snowden

A German lawmaker said he met Edward Snowden in Moscow on Thursday and the fugitive former US spy agency contractor said he was willing to come to Germany to assist with investigations into alleged US surveillance of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Hans-Christian Stroebele, a legislator for the opposition Green party, 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 on Friday.

"He made it clear he knows a lot and that as long as the National Security Agency (NSA) blocks investigations...he is prepared to come to Germany and give testimony but the conditions must be discussed," said Stroebele.

Snowden can provide testimony to Germany only in Russia - Kucherena

US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden will not be able to leave Russia to be questioned by German prosecutors in a spying probe but can testify from inside the country, his lawyer Anatoly Kucherena says.

"Snowden will not go to Germany. This is not possible because he has no right to cross Russian borders," Anatoly Kucherena said, AFP reports citing Echo Moscow.

"Within the framework of international agreements Snowden can give testimony in Russia but this should be decided by the German authorities," he added.

Kucherena also said that Snowden "is ready to work with everyone".

"He is free to decide who to talk to and when," Kucherena said responding to a question about Snowden's readiness to work with Germany on the investigation into the case involving the tapping of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone by the US National Security Agency.

Voice of Russia, AFP, RIA, dpa, Interfax, Reuters

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