German Government Hires DC Law Firm To Threaten Its Own Parliament With Criminal Prosecution For Talking To Snowden
from the scandalous dept
Earlier this month, we wrote about how German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government was trying to block Ed Snowden from testifying before a German Parliamentary committee’s hearings into NSA surveillance. That fight is apparently getting nasty. German lawmakers have so far ignored the pressure, and have said that they still want to question Snowden (though it’s not yet clear how this will be done).
However, it seems the fight is getting nasty. It appears that Merkel’s government hired a DC-based law firm to send a ridiculous letter threatening German law makers with possible criminal prosecution in the US for talking to Snowden. No joke. The German government got lawyer Jeffrey Harris of the DC-based Rubin, Winston, Diercks, Harris & Cooke to send a notice with the following:
“We are of the opinion that if Snowden provides classified information or documents to the Bundestag or to German diplomats who interview Snowden, such acts give rise to criminal exposure under the laws of the United States. The United States would have jurisdiction to prosecute these acts regardless of where they occur. The fact that German legislators have immunity under German laws would not shield them from prosecution in the United States.”
This should be deeply offensive to pretty much everyone in the German government — even if the letter was apparently commissioned by the German government. The idea that they might face criminal prosecution for the simple act of investigating how the US spied on the German government is insulting in the extreme.
As the FreeSnowden site points out, the implications of such claims are equally ridiculous, as it also implies that anyone who has received any of the Snowden documents faces criminal charges in the US — which would include basically anyone who’s read any of the stories based on the Snowden documents:
If accurate, the ramifications of this advice would be enormous: should the the bodies – including the European Parliament and Council of Europe – that have already received testimony from Edward Snowden fear “criminal exposure under the laws of the United States”? Should Der Spiegel and the other media outlets that have seen and reported on large numbers of documents provided by Snowden?
As Der Spiegel makes clear this is all part of a calculated effort by Merkel to both stay in the US’s good graces, and to appear to be a strong unified front against Vladimir Putin’s recent aggressiveness in Russia. And, yes, there may be good diplomatic reasons for Germany to want to remain on good terms with the US. But there’s no reason why that should lead to completely ridiculous criminal threats against German lawmakers for wanting to talk to Ed Snowden.