German opposition assails gov't over Snowden

AP News
Posted: May 02, 2014 10:35 AM
German opposition assails gov't over Snowden

BERLIN (AP) — Germany's government has made clear it opposes the idea of former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden testifying in Berlin to a parliamentary inquiry into surveillance by the U.S. — drawing criticism from the opposition, which insisted Friday it will keep pressing for him to appear.

All four parties in Germany's lower house agreed in March to launch the inquiry into the scope of spying on Germans' communications by the U.S. National Security Agency and its allies, including the alleged monitoring of Chancellor Angela Merkel's cellphone. Merkel met with President Barack Obama in Washington on Friday.

But while opposition parties insist Snowden should be brought to Berlin as a key witness, Merkel's governing coalition has questioned the point and wisdom of that. The U.S. has revoked Snowden's passport, meaning he would need the government's help to enter Germany.

If Snowden were questioned in Germany, "significant negative effects on German-American relations could be expected, and particularly an impairment of cooperation with U.S. security authorities, which is of fundamental significance for Germany's security," the government said in a report sent to members of the parliamentary panel Friday and obtained by The Associated Press.

It added "the legal appraisal has shown Mr. Snowden could also be questioned abroad."

Martina Renner, a member of the parliamentary inquiry for the opposition Left Party, told Deutschlandfunk radio the government "must make it possible for Edward Snowden to enter the country ... we really don't understand this legal position." She argued that Snowden can't testify "freely and fully" in Russia.

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She and other opposition lawmakers said they would continue to seek testimony from Snowden and, if necessary, take their case to German federal courts.

While the NSA affair has made headlines in Germany for months, there has been little sign of it doing significant political damage to Merkel, whose right-left coalition has a huge parliamentary majority.