- Berlin 11/01/2013 (AP)
— Edward Snowden is calling for international help to persuade the U.S. to drop its espionage charges against him, according to a letter a German lawmaker released Friday after meeting the American in Moscow.
Snowden said he would like to testify before the U.S. Congress about National Security Agency surveillance and may be willing to help German officials investigate alleged U.S. spying in Germany, Hans-Christian Stroebele, a lawmaker with Germany's opposition Greens, told a press conference.
But Snowden indicated in the letter that neither would happen unless the U.S. dropped its espionage charges — a policy shift the Obama administration has given no indication it would make.
Earlier Friday, Germany's top security official said he would like to arrange for German authorities to talk to Snowden about allegations that the NSA monitored the cellphone of Chancellor Angela Merkel and other U.S. surveillance operations.
Reports about NSA spying on world leaders and allies have outraged Europeans in the past two weeks. Snowden has said he no longer has the NSA materials but his knowledge of U.S. spying efforts could be seen as invaluable by other nations. Germany has purchased stolen data before — most notably Swiss banking records — and used that to successfully prosecute people.
In his one-page typed letter, written in English and bearing signatures that Stroebele said were his own and Snowden's, Snowden complained that the U.S. government "continues to treat dissent as defection, and seeks to criminalize political speech with felony charges that provide no defense."
"I am confident that with the support of the international community, the government of the United States will abandon this harmful behavior," Snowden wrote.
But he indicated he wouldn't talk in Germany or elsewhere until "the situation is resolved."
Stroebele said Snowden appeared healthy and cheerful during their meeting Thursday at an undisclosed location in Moscow. The German television network ARD, which accompanied Stroebele, said the Germans were taken to the meeting by "security officials" under "strict secrecy."
"(Snowden) said that he would like most to lay the facts on the table before a committee of the U.S. Congress and explain them," Stroebele said. The lawmaker, a prominent critic of the NSA's alleged activities, said the 30-year-old "did not present himself to me as anti-American or anything like that — quite the contrary."
Stroebele sent the Snowden letter Friday to Merkel's staff, German federal prosecutors and the speaker of Germany's Parliament before releasing it to journalists.
Germany is seeking answers from U.S. authorities to allegations that Merkel's cellphone was monitored, which prompted the German chancellor to complain to Obama last week and sent German officials heading to Washington for talks on the spying issue.
German federal prosecutors are looking into whether there are grounds to investigate the allegations regarding Merkel's cellphone. Germany's parliament is also expected to discuss the NSA's alleged spying on Nov. 18.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, meanwhile, conceded that some of the NSA's spying has reached too far and will be stopped.
Kerry said Thursday in a video link to an open government conference in London that because of modern technology, some of the NSA activities have been happening on "automatic pilot" without the knowledge of Obama administration officials.
Kerry said ongoing reviews of U.S. surveillance will ensure that technology is not being abused.
"The president and I have learned of some things that have been happening in many ways on an automatic pilot, because the technology is there," Kerry said. "In some cases, some of these actions have reached too far and we are going to try to make sure it doesn't happen in the future," he said.
Earlier Friday, Germany's interior minister said if Snowden were willing, he would try to arrange a meeting with German officials.
"If the message is that Mr. Snowden wants to give us information, then we will be glad to accept that," Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said in comments confirmed by his spokesman.
Snowden was granted a one-year asylum in Russia in August after being stuck at a Moscow airport for more than a month following his arrival there from Hong Kong. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Snowden got asylum on condition that he wouldn't harm U.S. interests.
Snowden's Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told the Interfax news agency that Snowden would not violate the terms of his asylum if he talked to the Germans in the wiretapping case. But Stroebele said Snowden had "significant reservations" about that idea, fearing that speaking to foreign officials on Russian soil could cause him problems.
If Snowden leaves Russia, he would lose his asylum status, Kucherena confirmed.
Germany, along with many other nations, rejected an asylum request from Snowden earlier this year. In July, the Germans received a U.S. request for Snowden's arrest should he be found in the country.
Snowden's exact whereabouts in Russia and his activities have been a mystery.
Stroebele was tightlipped about where he was taken to meet the American in Russia. He said he had "no contact with Russian authorities" other than a passport control officer and none with the German Embassy in Moscow.
Snowden's lawyer said Thursday that his client has accepted a technical-support job with a major Russian website but refused to name it.
"He enjoys living in Russia, he likes travelling, we have such opportunities. We have opportunities to visit cultural events, we have opportunities to show him our places of interest," Kucherena said Friday.
He also said Snowden is studying the Russian language and has developed some competency.
There has been wide speculation that Snowden is under the control of Russia's security services, but there has been no confirmation of that.