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Update: Germany To Study Ways To Question Snowden In Moscow

Wed, 6th Nov 2013 16:01

BERLIN (Alliance News) - Germany is examining ways to interview Edward Snowden in Russia, where the US intelligence whistleblower has been granted a year's asylum, Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said Wednesday.

The government of Chancellor Angela Merkel, which is seeking a no-mutual-spying agreement with the United States, has been wary of making contact with Snowden for fear of upsetting Washington and would not let him onto German soil.

Friedrich spoke after briefing a German parliamentary committee that supervises the intelligence services on how the no-spy negotiations were advancing and how to respond to an offer from Snowden to testify about US National Security Agency (NSA) snooping.

"I have made clear that our decision in the summer remains in place: that Mr Snowden has no right to asylum in Germany because he is not politically persecuted," said Friedich.

The minister also rejected calls by opposition politicians to help Snowden, who faces an international arrest warrant issued by the US.

"We must now confer about how and under what conditions it would be possible in Moscow to hear from Mr Snowden and obtain information from him if he has information," the minister said of the one-time NSA contractor who has leaked classified material about internet and phone surveillance to the media.

German officials declined to be respond to questions about why Moscow would consent to such questioning, or why Washington would let it happen.

Spain held a similar parliamentary briefing in Madrid, where Felix Sanz Roldan, head of the Spanish secret service CNI, categorically denied his agents had spied on politicians or entrepreneurs in Spain.

The CNI intercepts about 1,000 phone calls or e-mails annually with judicial authorization and based on appropriate motives, parliamentary sources quoted him as telling the committee.

The Spanish secret service had not passed on relevant data to the NSA outside agreed bilateral cooperation on terrorism, organized crime, cyber-spying and illegal immigration, Sanz Roldan said.

Asked whether the NSA could have operated illegally in Spain, the CNI chief said the US intelligence services act based on their own laws, such as the anti-terrorism Patriot Act, instead of the laws of the countries where they are present.

Spain has already expelled nine foreign agents for illegal activities, he revealed, without giving details.

Sanz Roldan said it was correct that the NSA could collect about 60 million "metadata" every two weeks. Metadata are numbers dialled, times of calls and so on, not recordings of voices.

But he said 60 million metadata corresponded to only to slightly more than 2 million such communications, indicating that a single call might cause more than two dozen metadata elements to be logged.

The briefing took place behind closed doors. All the parliamentary groups said they were satisfied with Sanz Roldan's explanation.

"The Spanish intelligence has spoken, and now we need to demand explanations from the United States," said Soraya Rodriguez of the opposition Socialist Party.

In Berlin, Merkel's chief of staff said Germany and the US were "still negotiating" on the spying accord, and that he would make a public announcement when it became "more concrete." Berlin's intelligence chiefs were in Washington this week to discuss terms.

"We have a good chance to put cooperation on intelligence between Germany and the US on a new basis, and we have a unique opportunity to restore lost trust," Ronald Pofalla said.

An upset Merkel phoned US President Barack Obama last month to protest at reports that the NSA had monitored her mobile phone.

In an open letter last week, Snowden offered to testify on ways to rein in the NSA.

Hans-Christian Stroebele, a German opposition Green Party lawmaker who visited Snowden last week in Russia and received the letter, said after the briefing that he disagreed with the interior minister's view that Germany could not offer Snowden asylum.

He urged that asylum be offered to Snowden by Germany or a similarly democratic nation.

He also dismissed the closed-door account of Germany's two intelligence chiefs - Gerhard Schindler of the BND external intelligence and Hans-Georg Maassen of German counterespionage - of their Washington talks.

"I don't know any more now than I did when I went in," he said.

Copyright dpa

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