British Conservatives oppose video appearance by NSA whistleblower, which Green MEP says could happen this year.
he European parliament is lining up Edward Snowden to give evidence by video link this month, in spite of resistance by British Conservatives, a Green MEP has announced.
Jan Philipp Albrecht, a German Green MEP, said parliamentarians wanted Snowden to appear before the assembly’s committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs (LIBE).
Albrecht said it would represent a great success for the parliament’s investigation into mass surveillance of EU citizens.
He said: “Half a year after the first publications from his collection of numerous NSA documents, the truth of which has not so far been refuted, there are still consequences as far as political responsibility is concerned.
The basic political will is there. Now we will need to see if we can get a formal majority for a hearing and hope Snowden can keep his promise to answer questions on the affair.”
The LIBE committee would most likely want questions on what role other European information services played in data gathering for the NSA, and whether servers and data networks in the EU were used as part of the process.
Albrecht claims Snowden had expressed interest via his lawyers in July, and that recent communications had firmed that up. In October, the Green party MEP Christian Ströbele went to Moscow to meet Snowden.
European parliament sources considered it likely committee members would vote in favour of a Snowden hearing, with the only vocal opposition from British Tory MEPs.
On Thursday, the Conservative MEP Timothy Kirkhope sent a letter to all members of the committee protesting against the invitation to Snowden, calling it “a provocative act that would enable [Snowden] to further endanger security around Europe and beyond”.
Kirkhope described the whistleblower as “possibly a criminal, and, in the eyes of many, a traitor who had through acts of utter recklessness and thoughtlessness, put the lives of millions of people in danger”.
Sarah Ludford, the Lib Dem MEP, said: “Edward Snowden’s revelations merit serious debate on whether the intelligence services are out of control. But if Snowden’s video appearance is to be more than a high-profile stunt, it is essential that he is asked the right questions, including whether he had any other motivation than the public interest.
“We also need to get testimony from the intelligence chiefs responsible if we are to give European citizens the answers they deserve.”
She added: “I want to know if any whistleblowing channels were open to him that he did not use, whether he had any other motivation than the public interest, and what his relationship is with the Chinese and Russian secret services.”
Since the Tories are no longer part of the European People’s party alliance of centre-right parties, however, one MEP called their reluctance “not crucial”.
A real-time video testimony could pinpoint Snowden’s location so the committee would send questions to him then play back recorded answers for parliament.