German Chancellor Merkel agrees to public inquiry into NSA revelations
3 January 2014, 21:30
Chancellor Angela Merkel's government agreed Friday to a public inquiry into surveillance by the US National Security Agency (NSA), but it was unclear if the panel would invite testimony from Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor who exposed the snooping.
Merkel had tried to head off a parliamentary inquiry, conscious of the tension it would cause with Germany's most powerful ally. But her top parliamentary aide yielded Friday to pressure from opposition parties to appoint a commission.
Michael Grosse-Broemer, chief Christian Democratic whip, said, 'If the opposition takes the view that a commission of inquiry has to be set up, we won't stand in the way.' The other government party, the Social Democrats, also gave in to the demand.
So far the NSA scandal has played out mainly in the global media, with a small group of journalists given access to Snowden's leaks.
A parliamentary inquiry would have authority to summon evidence from German intelligence agencies, but no power to subpoena US data.
Pressure for the inquiry has come from Hans-Christian Stroebele, a German Green Party deputy who scored a coup last year by travelling to Moscow and meeting with Snowden, who has received one year's political asylum from Russia.
Green spokeswoman Britta Hasselmann called for Snowden to be granted safe passage to testify in Germany.
Merkel has rebuffed all appeals to offer asylum to Snowden, who has been praised by many in Germany as a hero.
Last year, Merkel aides said investigators could go to Moscow to interview Snowden rather than invite him to Germany. Analysts say the United States would be furious if Snowden were allowed to visit Germany and return to Russia without arrest.
Stroebele said this week the opposition Green and Left parties would force a vote to be held on setting up the inquiry, even though they lack the parliamentary votes to pass the vote alone. The threshold is one quarter of the votes in the Bundestag.
The pro-Merkel parties, which have 504 out of the 631 seats in the Bundestag parliament, vowed when they elected a new government last month to be accommodating of demands from the Greens and the Left.
Friday's decision to let the inquiry go ahead was a first test of the pro-Merkel parties' vow to respect the opposition.
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