Snowden has ‘no regrets’ about exposing surveillance
Former defence contractor claims US government is out to ‘destroy’ him
Hans-Christian Stroebele, a member of the German Greens Party and the Bundestag, holds up a letter from Edward Snowden, former contractor with the National Security Agency (NSA), that Mr Snowden gave him in Moscow yesterday. Photograph: Getty
Mr Snowden told German journalists and a German politician yesterday that the US government was out to “destroy” him for exposing information he gathered from US intelligence agencies, not just as a computer contractor but also from active duty.
“As a consequence of having done the right thing: I regret nothing,” said Mr Snowden to the Süddeutsche Zeitung daily during a three-hour meeting in Moscow. “The US government would like to make an example of me: if you tell the truth, we will destroy you.”
He conceded the price of his decision to reveal huge amounts of NSA classified information was “the loss of real and regular contact with my family and friends”.
The whistleblower played down his role in the affair, one of the biggest leaks of classified information in US history, saying it was up to “independent journalists and experts to form their own judgment about what’s contained in the documents” he had leaked.
“I brought it about but, in the end, journalist, politicians, technical experts and normal citizens will decide how much we profit from this,” he said.
Mr Snowden told the newspaper that internal controls at the NSA did not function, leading him to go public in the hope of triggering an external inquiry into US intelligence activity.
German Green Party MP Hans-Christian Ströbele, who met Mr Snowden yesterday afternoon in Moscow, said today in Berlin that the 30 year-old’s insider knowledge made him a crucial witness at a Bundestag inquiry into NSA surveillance.
The German politician has called on Chancellor Angela Merkel to offer Mr Snowden asylum to allow him testify in Berlin and gave her a letter from Mr Snowden expressing readiness to “co-operate ... in the responsible finding of fact”.
Acting interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said today Germany would “find away to make a conversation possible, if Mr Snowden is prepared to talk to German side”.
He declined to say who would lead the talks on behalf of the German government.
“If the message is, Mr Snowden wants to give us information then we will gladly accept,” added Mr Friedrich. “All information and facts we gather are welcome.”
In the letter by Mr Snowden, distributed to journalists, Mr Snowden said he was heartened by public reaction to his revelations of “systemic violations of law” which had created a “moral duty to act”.
But the 30 year-old complained that the US government continued to “treat dissent as defection (and) criminalise political speech with felony charges”.
Mr Snowden describes himself in the one-page typed letter as “formerly employed through contracts or direct hire as a technical expert” for three intelligence bodies: the NSA, the foreign intelligence service (CIA) and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).
Mr Ströbele described him as someone who “didn’t just work with computers but had operational activity”.
“He made clear he knows a lot about internal structures and had noted institutional aberrations. He can interpret documents (with) letters, symbols and signs that mean nothing to me,” said Mr Ströbele to a packed press conference. “He can explain all of this in a way that only an NSA operative could do. He is a significant witness for Germany ... and would be prepared to share this knowledge.”