German court denies Snowden visit bid

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The German high court has denied an attempt by two of the country’s opposition parties to have NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden visit Berlin to testify before the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament.

The Karlsruhe court reportedly said that the suit was an administrative issue that had to go before the Federal Court of Justice instead. The suit had been filed by the Greens and the Left, seeking to force the government to allow Snowden into Germany – he is currently still stuck in Russia, and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration has not been keen to let him in, lest the visit further impair relations with the U.S.

The German government has previously asked whether Snowden would be willing to testify before the parliamentary inquiry into the NSA allegations if the committee members went to visit him, but his lawyer has said he would only be willing to testify in Berlin.

Meanwhile, a formal probe into the alleged bugging of Merkel’s phone by the NSA has so far come up short. The investigation launched in June, more than half a year after those allegations were published by Der Spiegel, leading to a great deal of public frostiness from Germany towards the U.S.

Germany’s chief federal prosecutor, Harald Range, told a press conference on Wednesday that there wasn’t enough evidence to bring charges in the case. He said: “The document presented in public as proof of an actual tapping of the mobile phone is not an authentic surveillance order by the NSA. It does not come from the NSA database.”

The original Spiegel article in question (PDF) did not actually depict the document in question, which included Merkel’s phone number as a “selector”, though it did show others that apparently came from the NSA. Range, whose investigation continues, said the Spiegel reporter who produced the document had not provided further details to aid the investigation, and neither had the BND spy agency.

Perhaps importantly, the original article did not claim that the document came from the Snowden cache, but rather said more ambiguously that Spiegel‘s wider investigation had taken in “internal documents of the U.S. National Security Agency and other information, most of which comes from the archive of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.”

UPDATE (December 13): Der Spiegel has hit back over allegations in some reportage that the Merkelphone document was a fake. The publication said on Saturday that Range had categorically denied during the press conference that the document was a fake. It also reiterated that what it had published and passed onto Merkel’s office was “a transcription and not the original document”, and accused Range of trying to “publicly undermine the credibility” of Der Spiegel.

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