​US aggressively threatened to 'cut off' Germany over Snowden asylum - report

A student works on a computer that is projecting former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. (Reuters / Mark Blinch)
Washington reportedly threatened to stop sharing intelligence with Berlin if it offered asylum to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, or arranged for him to travel to Germany, according to a report by journalist Glenn Greenwald.

“They told us they would stop notifying us of plots and other intelligence matters,” German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said earlier this week, Greenwald wrote in the Intercept.

The vice chancellor, who is also head of the Social Democratic Party and the country’s economy and energy minister, delivered a speech in Homburg praising the journalists who worked on the Snowden archive.

According to Greenwald (who was present at the event to receive an award) Gabriel said that Snowden was forced to seek refuge in “Vladimir Putin’s autocratic Russia” since no other nation was either willing, or able to protect him from threats of imprisonment by the US government. This caused a member of the audience to interrupt vice chancellor and yell out: “Why don’t you bring him to Germany, then?”

Gabriel replied that Germany would have its hands tied, obliged to extradite Snowden to the US if he were on German soil.

READ MORE: ‘You are surveillance target’ – Snowden to IT specialists

Greenwald said, however, that after the event, Gabriel disclosed that Germany would have been “cut off” from all US intelligence sharing if Berlin welcomed Snowden.

The journalist pressed the vice chancellor on why Germany “could not and would not offer Snowden asylum.” Gabriel owned up that the US government had “aggressively threatened the Germans that if they did so, they would be 'cut off' from all intelligence sharing,” the report says.

That would mean that if the threat were carried out, the Americans would “literally allow the German population to remain vulnerable to a brewing attack discovered by the Americans by withholding that information from their government.”

It's hardly the first time the US has threatened to withhold evidence of possible terror plots as punishment to an ally. In 2009, a British national, Binyam Mohamed, sued the UK government for complicity in his torture at Bagram and Guantanamo. The High Court ordered the UK to provide Mohamed’s lawyers with documents detailing what the CIA told British intelligence agents about his abuse.

In the Mohamed case, it is “quite plausible” that the US and UK conspired to fabricate a “threat,” Greenwald wrote, to get the High Court to change its ruling.

According to the journalist, in the case of Snowden “one of two things is true: 1) the US actually threatened Germany that it would refrain from notifying them of terrorist plots against German citizens and thus deliberately leave them vulnerable to violent attacks, or 2) some combination of high officials from the US and/or German governments are invoking such fictitious threats in order to manipulate and scare the German public into believing that asylum for Snowden will endanger their lives. Both are obviously noteworthy, though it’s hard to say which is worse.”