Edward Snowden is not requesting asylum in Germany in exchange for helping the country investigate National Security Agency surveillance, Snowden's lawyer says, contradicting reports in the Russian news media.
"Edward Snowden would never offer information in exchange for asylum and he has never suggested otherwise," ACLU lawyer Ben Wizner, who represents Snowden, told BuzzFeed. "Reports to the contrary are false."
Germany was one of the countries where Snowden applied for asylum back when he was living in Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport. But he is not currently renewing that request, his lawyer said.
"He applied when he was in the airport but not since," Wizner said.
Both Russia Today and Life News, an outlet known for its close ties to Russian security services, reported that Snowden is offering Germany help with its inquiry into National Security Agency spying in exchange for permanent asylum. The information is based off an interview Snowden did with the German Stern magazine. Russia Today reports, "The former NSA contractor also wrote that he would be willing to help German officials investigate alleged NSA spying in Germany, if he is granted asylum."
Wizner provided BuzzFeed with an email from the Stern reporter in which the reporter told him, "The headline below doesn't cover our story accurately. We just said that ES would accept asylum from Germany without hesitation because he would trust the German government not to extradite him to the US. We also mentioned that he doubts the willingness of the US Congress to reform intelligence policy."
Snowden wrote a similar letter to the people of Brazil last week that was widely interpreted as a quid pro quo request for asylum, though journalist Glenn Greenwald said that was not the case.
In November, the Guardian reported that Snowden "indicated his own willingness to speak as a witness to the Bundestag" after German lawmakers mulled ways to bring him to Germany to testify in front of parliament on NSA spying.
"What has been omitted from the reporting is the key context that Senators and other officials from both Germany and Brazil have been vigorously pursuing Snowden for months to try to get him to participate in their investigations, answer questions, attend hearings, etc.," said Greenwald. "He wrote those letters to explain why he **cannot** participate in those investigations even though he'd like to: namely, because his situation is so precarious because he lacks permanent asylum anywhere."
Greenwald flagged an interview with Brazilian TV Snowden did yesterday in which he said, "I would never exchange information for asylum, and I'm sure the Brazilian government wouldn't either."
"It's genuinely shocking how false the reporting from the U.S. media has been on this," Greenwald said.
Greenwald said he didn't know why Russian media was jumping on the Germany story now and thought they were "re-cycling" stories about what happened in November.
Rosie Gray is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, D.C. Gray reports on politics and foreign policy.
Contact Rosie Gray at email@example.com.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.