BERLIN — Germany’s top security official said today he will try and find a way for Edward Snowden to speak to German officials if the former National Security Agency contractor is willing to provide details about the NSA’s activities including the alleged surveillance of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone.
The comments by Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich came after a German opposition lawmaker traveled to Moscow and met Snowden. The lawmaker, Hans-Christian Stroebele, said he received a letter from Snowden to German authorities that he planned to present later today.
Stroebele, a Green party lawmaker, is a prominent critic of the NSA’s alleged activities.
“If the message is that Mr. Snowden wants to give us information, then we will be glad to accept that,” Friedrich said, according to the newspaper Die Zeit. He said that “we will find a way to make a conversation possible if Mr. Snowden is prepared to talk to German officials.”
Friedrich’s spokesman, Jens Teschke, confirmed the comments, saying “we want clarification and we want further information.”
He added, however, that he understood Friedrich to be referring primarily to the possibility of officials speaking to Snowden in Russia, where he has been granted asylum.
Germany is seeking answers from U.S. authorities to allegations Merkel’s cellphone was monitored, which prompted the German chancellor to complain to Obama last week. Merkel’s foreign policy adviser and intelligence coordinator held talks on the issue in Washington on Wednesday.
Germany’s government, along with many others, rejected an asylum request from Snowden earlier this year.
Teschke said today that, if Snowden now wanted asylum in Germany, he would have to come to the country and then apply for it — but noted that Germany has an extradition treaty with the United States.
German federal prosecutors are looking into whether there are grounds to investigate the allegations regarding Merkel’s cellphone, but it is unclear when they might decide. Germany’s parliament is expected to discuss the NSA’s alleged activities Nov. 18 and lawmakers may decide to set up a commission of inquiry.
Thomas Oppermann, a lawmaker who heads a parliamentary panel that oversees German intelligence, said on Twitter that if there’s an opportunity to hear Snowden as a witness without endangering him and without “completely ruining” German-U.S. relations, it should be taken. Oppermann is a member of the center-left Social Democrats, who are negotiating with Merkel’s conservatives to form a new German government after September elections.
Snowden was granted asylum in Russia in August after being stuck at a Moscow airport for more than a month following his arrival there from Hong Kong. The 30-year-old faces espionage charges in the U.S.