WASHINGTON/berlin: Senior American lawmakers said yesterday 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.”
But Senator Dianne Feinstein, in an interview with CBS’ Face the Nation news show, said he had missed his chance to do so. “He had an opportunity, if what he was was a whistle blower 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,” said the Democrat. “And I think the answer is no clemency,” she said, adding that 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 grant Snowden clemency.
“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,” he told CBS.
“But he does need to own up with 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 disclosure that Washington monitored German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone, a matter that has caused an uproar in Europe.
In the letter he passed to Stroebele, Snowden said he was prepared to provide details of US spying to Germany and was “heartened” by the global response to his leaks despite unrelenting US pressure. The letter was addressed to the German government, the Bundestag lower house of parliament and the federal public prosecutor, Stroebele’s office said.
Meanwhile, Snowden said calls for more oversight of government intelligence agencies showed he was justified in revealing the methods and targets of the US secret service. Snowden’s leaks about the National Security Agency (NSA), from its alleged mass scanning of emails to the tapping of world leaders’ phones, have infuriated US allies and placed Washington on the defensive.
In “A Manifesto for the Truth” published in German news magazine Der Spiegel yesterday, Snowden said current debates about mass surveillance in many countries showed his revelations were helping to bring about change.
“Instead of causing damage, the usefulness of the new public knowledge for society is now clear because reforms to politics, supervision and laws are being suggested,” he wrote. “Citizens have to fight against the suppression of information about affairs of essential importance for the public. Those who speak the truth are not committing a crime.”