Spy Hero

Snowden Not Traitor But a U.S. Patriot, Perhaps the First Global One

A man near the NSA spying complex in Griesheim, Germany takes part in a protest with a poster demanding asylum for Edward Snowden. Source: DPA
A man near the NSA spying complex in Griesheim, Germany takes part in a protest with a poster demanding asylum for Edward Snowden.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    As the East-West dispute over Ukraine escalates, Russia is exploiting Mr. Snowden’s bid to escape a possible life-long prison sentence in the United States, or worse.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Mr. Snowden’s previous year-long permit to live in Russia expired on July 31.
    • His new three-year visa allows him to leave Russia for up to three months.
    • Many Germans would like to offer him asylum so he could testify to parliament on the NSA spying affair.
  • Audio

    Audio

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Edward Snowden can breathe a sigh of relief. Russia’s new tsar is granting the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor a three-year residency permit. But it’s unlikely he’ll be celebrating with balalaika and caviar in his forced exile in Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is clearly using the supposed defector, tying Mr. Snowden’s fate to what could be considered a “war dividend” in the escalating East-West dispute over the conflict in Ukraine.

But Mr. Snowden is far from a traitor. He is an American patriot – perhaps the first global patriot – who believes in the self-purifying power of democracies. That’s why he “opened everybody’s eyes,” to echo Chancellor Angela Merkel’s words of praise. Indeed, it was Mr. Snowden who uncovered the massive American surveillance of millions of people around the world, including eavesdropping directly on the German chancellor herself.

Many who have been duped by the United States apparently lack the political courage to draw even the most elementary conclusions from the sinister Big-Brother behavior of the NSA.

That’s why it’s a blemish on the democratic West, from London to Berlin, that Mr. Snowden can only breathe free courtesy of a decree by a cold, calculating ex-KGB officer and autocratic Kremlin ruler. Only with the help of a despot has he been able – for the time being – to escape a life-long prison sentence, or worse.

And Berlin’s embarrassing dithering about whether to guarantee his safe passage to Germany – so the courageous whistleblower could tell parliament about the extent of NSA misdeeds – shows that although German eyes have been opened to U.S. spying, they are not necessarily full of political insight.

Many who claim to have been duped by the United States apparently lack the political courage to draw even the most elementary conclusions from the sinister Big-Brother behavior of the NSA in this affair: That Mr. Snowden, the bearer of bad tidings that warned the world, should testify here.

Instead, diversions take the place of courage: Berlin is pursuing a hopeless anti-spying agreement with Washington, an important free-trade agreement is being torpedoed and Germany’s fundamental relations with United States are deteriorating dramatically.

This is all happening due to ill-advised political maneuvering by German officials who are misguidedly letting a simmering conflagration spread, instead of having the guts to stamp out the NSA blaze themselves.

This article was translated by Gregory Ring. To contact the author: scheidges@handelsblatt.com

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