BERLIN – The U.S. refused to show any leniency to fugitive leaker Edward Snowden on Friday, even as Secretary of State John Kerry conceded that eavesdropping on allies had happened on automatic pilot and went too far.
Snowden made his appeal for U.S. clemency in a letter released Friday by a German lawmaker who met with him in Moscow. In it, the 30-year-old American asked for international help to persuade the U.S. to drop spying charges against him and said he would like to testify before the U.S. Congress about the National Security Agencys surveillance activities.
Snowden also indicated he would be willing to help German officials investigate alleged U.S. spying in Germany, said Hans-Christian Stroebele, a lawmaker with the opposition Green Party and a member of the parliamentary committee that oversees German intelligence.
Stroebele met with Snowden for three hours Thursday, a week after explosive allegations that the NSA had monitored Chancellor Angela Merkels cellphone prompted her to complain personally to President Barack Obama.
In his one-page typed letter 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.
However, speaking the truth is not a crime, Snowden wrote. I am confident that with the support of the international community, the government of the United States will abandon this harmful behavior.
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki would not respond directly to Snowdens appeal but said the U.S. position has not changed.
Stroebele said Snowden appeared healthy and cheerful during their meeting at an undisclosed location in Moscow.
Snowden said that he would like most to lay the facts on the table before a committee of the U.S. Congress and explain them, Stroebele said.
The lawmaker, a prominent critic of the NSAs alleged activities, said Snowden did not present himself to me as anti-American or anything like that – quite the contrary.
Merkel this week sent German officials to Washington for talks on the spying issue. Germanys parliament also is expected to discuss the NSAs alleged spying Nov. 18.
Snowdens appeal came as Kerry conceded that because of modern technology, some NSA activities had gone too far and were carried out without the knowledge of Obama administration officials.
The president and I have learned of some things that have been happening, in many ways on an automatic pilot, because the technology is there, Kerry said Thursday, speaking in a video link to an open government conference in London.
In some cases, some of these actions have reached too far, and we are going to try to make sure it doesnt happen in the future, Kerry said, adding that ongoing reviews of U.S. surveillance will ensure that technology is not being abused.
Snowden was granted a one-year asylum in Russia in August after being stuck at a Moscow airport for more than a month following his arrival from Hong Kong.