Germany has ruled out granting a visa or asylum to Central Investigation Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden over concerns that it could worsen the already serious diplomatic row with the United States, sparked off over spy allegations.
Snowden "is not eligible for a political asylum in Germany because he is not a victim of political persecution," German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said.
The German government will, however, examine the possibilities to interrogate him in Moscow to get new information on the US National Security Agency's spying activities, Friedrich told reporters after an emergency meeting of the parliament's intelligence committee.
The meeting discussed Snowden's offer to visit Germany to give more details of the NSA's extensive operations to access and monitor global communications that include the tapping of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone. He made his offer in a letter sent to the German government through Green party MP Hans-Christian Stroebele, who met him in Moscow last Thursday.
Snowden, a former National Security Advisor contractor, has been staying in Moscow after fleeing the US via Hong Kong at the end of May and he was granted a one-year asylum by the Russian authorities in June. The US has already made a request to the German government to extradite Snowden if he travels to this country. The US wants him to face trial for revealing official secrets.
Thomas Oppermann, chairman of the intelligence committee, said interrogating Snowden in Germany is not being considered at present. He cannot be invited to Germany as long as he faces the risk of being extradited to the US. Therefore, the committee decided to urge the government to examine the possibilities for questioning him in Moscow, "without putting him in difficulties," Oppermann said.
Stroebele, a Green party member of the committee, sharply criticised the government's refusal to grant Snowden asylum. Snowden "has done a great service to this nation by exposing the illegal surveillance operations" of American and British intelligence services. His revelations also contributed to the beginning of negotiations between the US and Germany on a "no spy"
agreement, Stroebele said.
The government "can prevent his extradition to the US and ensure his safety by ordering the security forces to give him protection if it really wants," he said. The meeting was briefed by the heads of Germany's external intelligence agency BND and its domestic counterpart, the Federal Office for the Protection of Constitution, on their discussions with US officials in Washington earlier this week seeking more clarifications on the NSA's surveillance activities, including the tapping of Merkel's mobile phone. They also initiated talks on a no spy agreement.