This summer, reporting based on documents disclosed by Edward Snowden gave an indication of the extent of German cooperation with NSA surveillance. In particular, Der Spiegel’s reporting drew attention to the involvement of Germany’s BND in the NSA’s corporate partnerships and the agencies’ jointly staffed projects based at Bad Aibling in Bavaria.
Switzerland’s Attorney General has raised the possibility that Edward Snowden could testify about NSA surveillance in Switzerland – and apply for asylum there – without fear of onward extradition to the United States.
The written legal opinion, seen by Swiss newspapers le Matin Dimanche and Sonntags Zeitung, states there is no legal impediment to Mr Snowden being granted Swiss asylum but leaves open the possibility of “higher state obligations” taking priority. While those “higher state obligations” are left undefined, this is – on the face of it – a rather more positive response than inquiries seeking Mr Snowden’s participation in person have received elsewhere.
Edward Snowden’s three-year Russian residency permit allows him to travel abroad for periods of up to three months. This new possibility has reopened debate on a topic that the German government has gone to some lengths to keep closed: could Edward Snowden come to Berlin to testify to the Bundestag inquiry?
In an interview published on Tuesday by the German press agency dpa, Germany’s Justice Minister Heiko Maas suggested that Edward Snowden’s best option would be to return to the US to face trial:
He is only in his early thirties and would definitely not want to spend the rest of his life being chased around the world or applying for one asylum after another.
Maas’ statement has been roundly criticised in Germany, where a majority of the population is in favour of granting Edward Snowden asylum. Opposition politicians, who are trying to arrange for Edward Snowden to testify to the ongoing Bundestag Committee of Inquiry into surveillance, have deemed Maas’ intervention as “cynical.” The German government has gone to considerable lengths to frustrate the desire of the Bundestag committee to receive Edward Snowden as a witness and the matter is likely to be challenged in Germany’s constitutional court.
Germany’s committee of inquiry into surveillance of German citizens by the NSA and its partners has held its first hearing today in Berlin. Proceedings are being broadcast live on the internet, with a time-lag.
Following months of negotiations, Germany’s four major parties unanimously approved a parliamentary inquiry into surveillance in March. The Snowden revelations have proven particularly resonant in Germany, where there have been repeated demands for the public prosecutor’s office to look into allegations of surveillance on German citizens, including the Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the possible complicity of the German intelligence service, the BND.
StopWatchingUs Cologne are organising a protest against mass surveillance at Heumarkt, starting at 2pm on 12 April 2014. Among the group’s demands are for the German government to offer asylum to Edward Snowden, who may be invited to give testimony to the Bundestag inquiry into mass surveillance starting that month.