Parliamentary Inquiry Regarding NSA Activities in Germany – Snowden and US Tech Chiefs to Be Questioned

Roderich Kiesewetter MP

After deciding early May that they wanted to question former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden as part of their parliamentary inquiry into the mass surveillance of German citizens, German lawmakers also want to invite the heads of the largest U.S. technology companies to testify before their investigation.

The shortlist of potential witnesses will be discussed today and includes Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, Microsoft's General Counsel Brad Smith, as well as former NSA directors Keith Alexander and Michael Hayden.

PN member Roderich Kiesewetter, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrat Union and chairman of the parliamentary committee of inquiry, said before today’s meeting that although U.S. citizens summoned by the Committee aren't obliged to appear if they are outside Germany, "we hope they will come." The U.S. could decline to allow its former state official permission to testify abroad, and therefore, another option would be to invite the heads of the largest U.S. technology companies as expert officials rather than witnesses, Mr. Kiesewetter said.

"We'd like to hear them as witnesses, but if the U.S. authorities say not as witnesses but as experts then we'd still invite them, but we're pushing to hear them as witnesses since witnesses are obliged to tell the truth," Mr. Kiesewetter explained.

At the same time, he confirmed that the Christian Democrats would not like to question Edward Snowden in Germany, but want to travel to Russia "as quickly as possible" to question him there.

Questioning Edward Snowden in Germany could further damage relations with Washington and also lead to Snowden’s extradition, which would not be reasonable with regards to the sentence that Snowden would expect in the U.S., PN member Kiesewetter says.

The investigation committee was set up by Germany's four largest parliamentary groups last March in order to shed light on the National Security Agency's data-collection activities.

During today’s session of the German parliamentary inquiry committee, experts in constitutional law were heard. The former president of the German Constitutional Court, Hans-Jürgen Papier, highlighted that decisions of the German Constitutional Court and the European of Justice ruled that data retention and spy programs – such as the NSA and other intelligence services are using – were not allowed in Germany or elsewhere in the European Union. Furthermore, he said that it was not sufficient if the [German] State does not violate fundamental rights, but that the State also has the obligation to protect its citizens from activities of foreign authorities or companies, and step up on the international stage for the necessary protection measures.


To watch PN member Roderick Kiesewetter’s interview (in German) on the parliamentary inquiry committee, please click here.

Photo courtesy of Reservistenverband

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