BERLIN — German lawmaker Hans-Christian Stroebele released the text of a letter Friday that he said was given to him by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden during a meeting Thursday in Moscow.
Snowden is calling for international help to persuade the U.S. to drop espionage charges against him, would like to testify before Congress about National Security Agency surveillance and may be willing to help German officials investigate alleged U.S. spying in Germany, the Green Party lawmaker told a news conference in Berlin.
Earlier Friday, Germany's top security official said he would like to arrange for German authorities to talk to Snowden about allegations that the NSA monitored the cellphones of Chancellor Angela Merkel and other U.S. surveillance operations.
Snowden has been living in exile in Russia since June. The U.S. is seeking his return to face charges of violating the Espionage Act and stealing government property after he leaked classified documents detailing a mass surveillance effort involving telephone and Internet data.
In the one-page typed letter, written in English, Snowden complained that the U.S. government “continues to treat dissent as defection, and seeks to criminalize political speech with felony charges that provide no defense.”
The letter follows.
“To whom it may concern,
I have been invited to write to you regarding your investigation of mass surveillance.
I am Edward Joseph Snowden, formerly employed through contracts or direct hire as a technical expert for the United States National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, and Defense Intelligence Agency.
In the course of my service to these organizations, I believe I witnessed systemic violations of law by my government that created a moral duty to act. As a result of reporting these concerns, I have faced a severe and sustained campaign of persecution that forced me from my family and home. I am currently living in exile under a grant of temporary asylum in the Russian Federation in accordance with international law.
I am heartened by the response to my act of political expression, in both the United States and beyond. Citizens around the world as well as high officials — including in the United States — have judged the revelation of an unaccountable system of pervasive surveillance to be a public service. These spying revelations have resulted in the proposal of many new laws and policies to address formerly concealed abuses of the public trust. The benefits to society of this growing knowledge are becoming increasingly clear at the same time claimed risks are being shown to have been mitigated.
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. However, speaking the truth is not a crime. I am confident that with the support of the international community, the government of the United States will abandon this harmful behavior. I hope that when the difficulties of this humanitarian situation have been resolved, I will be able to cooperate in the responsible finding of fact regarding reports in the media, particularly in regard to the truth and authenticity of documents, as appropriate and in accordance with the law.
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.
With my best regards,
31 October 2013.”