Photo by Markus Winkler
APRIL APRIL: Edward Snowden has not been granted asylum in Germany (yet!). But the overwhelming reader response to our prank shows that Ed is still on everyone's minds here in Berlin. No joke — let's keep the discussion going and get him home!
Berlin has long made a name for itself as a safe haven for digital fugitives. But now, the whistleblowers and Edward Snowden allies who call the German capital home may be joined by the man himself: Merkel's government is about to make a dramatic U-turn and announce an offer of asylum to the NSA whistleblower.
In September, Snowden's Berlin-based European lawyer Wolfgang Kaleck told us he had been exploring the possibility of getting Snowden to Germany. Now, "we're hearing that Angela Merkel is finally about to do the right thing," a source close to his legal team said. The details of the offer aren't clear yet, but Snowden will probably be offered a standard asylum seeker's status, on the grounds that he faces "political persecution" in his home country, the United States.
A German government official, who asked to remain anonymous, said the report was true. "It's not that surprising when you think about it," he said. "Merkel realised that she had a lot to thank Snowden for – if it hadn't been for him she would never have found out that her phone was being bugged, for one thing. That made her very angry. But she kept it all inside, because that is her nature. She is taciturn."
"She also realised that if it hadn't been for Snowden the NSA's megalomania would never have been made public," he added. "Anyway, it's bound to be a vote-winner in the long run. German people get really weird about this stuff."
Germany is changing its stance on Edward Snowden. Last month, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel presented the Siebenpfeiffer Prize for journalism to Glenn Greenwald, saying, "He is a really good journalist, and that's good 'cos that's what you need to be to win the Siebenpfeiffer Prize for journalism."
Greenwald and Gabriel were seen hobnobbing contentedly at the event in Homburg, and afterwards Greenwald wrote in the Intercept that Gabriel was on their side now. Greenwald also said that Gabriel admitted that the Obama administration had threatened to withhold NSA intelligence from Germany if Merkel offered Snowden asylum. But Germany has apparently decided that its own secret service, the BND, is just as good as chasing Muslims.
Snowden remains on a temporary asylum in Russia, where he was forced to stay in 2013 after United States authorities cancelled his passport while he was in transit. It remains to be seen whether he will accept the offer and join his compatriots Laura Poitras and Jacob Appelbaum here in Berlin. According our sources, the whistleblower really likes some German things, like the SPD and asparagus, but he has read news reports about how asylum seekers in Germany are hunted out of schools and put in former concentration camps, and he's not so keen on those.