When Edward Snowden, the American computer specialist and former CIA employee, blew the whistle on the NSA’s top secret mass surveillance programs, a myriad of emotions surfaced. The controversy divided public thought. Some felt Snowden was a traitor, guilty of espionage. Many regarded Snowden as a hero, believing that if it weren’t for him, what would protect American civil liberties?
Snowden is now living in Russia under temporary political asylum. He is considered a fugitive by US authorities who have charged him with espionage and theft of government. Although four months have passed since Snowden’s explosive leaks, ancillary Snowden news surfaces sporadically and many believe the worst is yet to come.
For example, in September, reports emerged about Snowden revealing the US spied on a Brazilian state oil company.
The latest Snowden revelation to once more rock already apprehensive onlookers is the news that the NSA spied on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone. Even more latterly, Snowden is now offering to talk to Germany about the US/Merkel espionage controversy. Is Snowden going too far in fanning international flames and getting the US into even hotter water?
According to USA Today, Germany may open a discussion with Snowden to find out more about the allegations that the US spied on Angela Merkel. The German Interior Minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich, recently told Germany’s Die Zeit newspaper, “We will find a way, if Mr. Snowden is willing to talk.”
“We want clarification, and we want further information,” added Friedrich’s spokesman. (1)
The announcement came following Snowden’s meeting with Hans-Christian Strobele of Germany’s leftist opposition, the Green Party. During the meeting, Snowden had given Stroebele a letter, which read:
“Though the outcome of my efforts has been demonstrably positive, my government continues to treat dissent as defection and seeks to criminalize political speech with felony charges that provide no defense. I look forward to speaking with you in your country when the situation is resolved, and thank you for your efforts in upholding the international laws that protect us all.” (1)
Stroebele also told reporters that Snowden said he will not speak with German officials until the NSA agrees to drop its prosecution of him and others who reveal state secrets.
The allegations that the NSA tapped Merkel’s phone came from the German magazine Der Speigel. The magazine did not disclose its source for the claim but had previously published stories based on documents provided by Snowden. The allegations outraged Merkel and many Germans.
When confronted by Merkel about the accusations, President Obama said he didn’t know about the surveillance. The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said President Obama didn’t know the US was collecting communications of allied leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel. (2)
As CNN states, Snowden’s latest revelations are threatening to “roil diplomatic relations in Europe, South America and elsewhere”. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the Obama administration is maintaining a solid, unwavering and non-committal response to all those wanting answers – we’re not admitting anything, but we’ll change it for the better.
With Snowden’s revelations threatening to agitate diplomatic relations with the US’s allies such as Germany, the question remains more pertinent than ever – Is Snowden going too far in fanning international flames?
Why Does Snowden Keep Resurfacing?
It has been suggested that one reason Snowden keeps resurfacing with fresh allegations is because the former CIA employee is buying asylum by fanning the flames of anti-Americanism. As a reader pointed out on Democratic Underground, Snowden’s Russian asylum runs out in July next year. With his asylum status in Russia drawing closer, Snowden needs to find somewhere else to go. As the Democratic Underground user writes:
“It is now good for Snowden to try and portray the United States as some kind of ‘Great Spying Satan’ to anyone and everyone who will listen. By fanning the flames of anti-Americanism abroad, Snowden increases the likelihood of future grants of asylum. If he enrages the populace of foreign countries against the United States, that populace might force or allow its leadership to harbor Snowden after his Russian asylum runs out. It’s terrible for America but good for Snowden.” (3)
As compelling an argument as it might be, we cannot ignore the possibility that instead of deliberately going too far, Snowden is merely gradually informing the public about the truth. Instead of trying to stir up trouble to be granted future asylum elsewhere, Snowden may be striving to ensure that different countries join the fight to counter US internet surveillance.
Thrusting greater weight on this argument is the fact that Glen Greenwald, the Guardian journalist who broke the original Snowden story last June, says that there are plenty more Snowden leaks in the pipeline. Speaking to hundreds of journalists gathered at the Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Greenwald said:
“There are a lot more stories. The archives are so complex and so deep and so shocking and significant stories are the ones we are still working on, and have yet to be published.” (4)
In compromising diplomatic relationships with allies, Snowden’s actions are certainly getting the US deeper into hot water. Is the man who is seen as a traitor by some and a hero by others and his unremitting revelations to the media going too far?