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Is Edward Snowden Going to Germany?

Sub-question: Who will the ex-NSA agent Skype with first?

by Daniel Stuckey
Nov 1 2013, 6:40pm
Snowden sympathizers in Germany, via Flickr / CC. 

In some kind of whistleblowers-without-borders cosplay, it looks as though Edward Snowden could be on his way to Germany to testify against the NSA. That is, if he can be assured that he'll receive asylum upon arrival.

After a three hour heart-to-heart with the former NSA agent in Moscow, German Green Party MP Hans-Christian Stroebele said Snowden made "clear he knows a lot and that as long as the National Security Agency (NSA) blocks investigations..., he is prepared to come to Germany and give testimony, but the conditions must be discussed." After their chat, the political 'maverick' gave reporters a letter Snowden had addressed to Angela Merkel and German officials. It thanked Berlin in its "efforts in upholding the international laws that protect us all.”

Because of existing treaties between Germany and Russia, Snowden's lawyer in Moscow said that travel to Germany wouldn't be necessary, alluding to the idea of conducting testimonies over Skype. But it seems like a no-brainer: Asylum in Berlin is highly preferable to near-refugee status in Moscow. However, having just taken up a tech support job at a Russian website, a weighing of the pros and cons seems in order.

What calculus can be assumed in trying to valuate the data and documents the 30-year-old ex-NSA contractor holds? German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich told Germany's Die Zeit newspaper "we will find a way, if Mr. Snowden is willing to talk." 

What bargain will be made? It seems that if an agreement is to be made, Snowden's access into the backbone of the American intelligence community would quite literally take the shape of a stamp in his passport. Or, an entirely new passport, for that matter.

In Berlin, where Snowden-worshipping activists would like to see streets renamed in his honor, it seems the whistleblower would be among allies, friends even. Germany has far fewer shades of gray around privacy rights than most other countries. Could Snowden's arrival there shape a mold of whistleblowers-to-come? 

The fit seems natural, in a country that's previously fined Google for its “unscrupulous data practices," and where using an ATM card in public can—to some—feel more disconcerting than walking in and out of the sex shop.

In the aforementioned letter, Snowden made clear that what he'd really like to do, would be to have a discussion with US Congress. And back in the US, the idea of Snowden skyping into intelligence hearings isn't so far-fetched. As Newsweeek reported, spokeswoman of the House Intelligence Committee Susan Phelan said that chairman Mike Rogers would "entertain" Snowden's request to speak with them—that is, if Snowden were to actually make such a request.

The question at this point seems to be, who will Snowden Skype with first? Or should he wait until he gets German asylum before he starts skyping? 

Could a German inquiry into Snowden's briefcase for answers about the NSA's intelligence-gathering be worth harboring him? Or is it bad for diplomacy? If Glenn Greenwald has said that we've only seen the tip of the iceberg, what do we have to learn about German, or other states' intelligence-gathering operations? Must we wait for a new media venture to lay out a steady trail of breadcrumbs?

It's moments like these where Julian Assange's proverb that, "the best way to keep a secret is to never have it,” rings louder than ever. Even if we're paying greater attention to the cell phone of Angela Merkel, who came from Stasi-occuppied East Berlin and who notes that she turned down one of their job offers, can we have a deeper understanding of her own present-day intelligence community's spying efforts on the US?

Who can Snowden ultimately climb into bed with, after all is skyped and done? The tired games of, "It wasn't me," seem endless at this point.

John Kerry tried to dampen the blame for policymakers and lay more blame on the NSA by stating that operations have merely been running on "auto-pilot," and that is the cause of the grave betrayal felt by world leaders everywhere. This is the cross-talk that continues even after NSA employees expressed upset over the Whitehouse's effort to assert its in-the-dark impunity in the matter. But General Keith Alexander—despite Al Jazeera's FOIA request revealing where his broken-record-9/11 talking points come from—remains rigid in defense of his agency.

Yesterday, Alexander called bullshit on ex-ambassador and current Maryland state senator, James Carew Rosapepe, who asked the General to provide "a national security justification" for spying on Angela Merkel's cell phone. In the name of providing intelligence to "let me think, hold on, oh: ambassadors," Alexander snapped back, NSA would've never pursued such eavesdropping to begin with.

In navigating the wilderness that is an eternal intelligence-war-having-its-shell-chipped-away, it's hard to handle the whole picture at moments like this. And yet if Edward Snowden's is instructed by a calling, by his 'moral duty,' Germany could very well be his unequivocal destiny.