BERLIN (Reuters) - Former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden told a German magazine that he has new information to share with a German parliamentary inquiry investigating U.S. surveillance and that he believes all Germans’ rights were violated.
German lawmakers on a committee investigating the spying decided earlier this month they wanted to question Snowden, but they could not agree on whether he should be invited to testify in person or remotely.
Snowden, who risks being arrested and extradited if he sets foot in any U.S.-allied country, told Stern magazine he had been “personally involved with information stemming from Germany” and that in that process the “constitutional rights of every citizen in Germany were infringed”.
He had used systems able to intercept large amounts of data, he said, adding: “I’d be surprised if German lawmakers learnt nothing new if I laid out all the information.”
Snowden said Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the BND, had used the same methods as the Americans and that might be the reason why some in Berlin were reluctant to hear him.
He was charged last year in the United States with theft of government property, unauthorised communication of national defence information and wilful communication of classified intelligence to an unauthorised person.
An option would be for him to testify from abroad but the German opposition argues that Snowden can only express himself freely if he is in Germany. Snowden’s German lawyer has ruled this out, saying it could jeopardise his stay in Russia.
Angela Merkel’s conservatives have so far rejected quizzing Snowden in Berlin, fearing it could further damage relations with Washington which have suffered from the revelations that U.S. spies tapped the German chancellor’s own phone.
The chairman of the parliamentary committee, conservative lawmaker Patrick Sensburg, said in response to Snowden’s interview: “According to the information we have Edward Snowden was never especially involved with the mass spying of German citizens in Germany.
“If he doesn’t deliver proof in terms of original documents soon, he could lose all credibility with the committee.”
The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), who share power with Merkel’s conservatives in a “grand coalition”, have said they are open to questioning Snowden in Germany or Russia.
The scale of the U.S. surveillance shocked Germany, where it is a sensitive subject because of the abuses by the Gestapo in the Nazi era and by the Stasi in communist East Germany.
In response to media reports on Thursday that the German federal prosecutor general would not launch investigations into the spying of either German citizens or Merkel, a spokesman for the prosecutor said he would announce his decision shortly, and that he had to weigh many open questions about the case.
Reporting by Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Stephen Brown and Angus MacSwan