US threatened to ‘cut off’ Germany over Snowden

US threatened to ‘cut off’ Germany over Snowden
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The Obama administration reportedly threatened to “cut off” Germany from its vast intelligence resources if it provided legal aide to leaker Edward Snowden.

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

The Obama administration denied the report on Friday. 

One senior administration official told The Hill in a statement that the notion that the U.S. threatened to limit information sharing is “baseless.”

“Our intelligence relationship with Germany has saved lives, and we would not seek to diminish our ability to continue countering terrorist and other threats with our German partners,” the official added.

Nonetheless, the report raised the stakes in the debate over the future of Snowden, who has been stuck in Russia for nearly two years after fleeing the U.S. with his trove of top-secret documents.

Snowden has long expressed a desire to return home to the U.S. or, alternately, seek asylum in a country that was friendlier to civil liberties than Russia. His passport was revoked after he left Hong Kong, his first destination after leaving the U.S., and international pressure has made it difficult for him to travel elsewhere.

He had applied for asylum in Germany, among many other countries, but that petition was not granted.

In the U.S., Snowden is wanted on multiple espionage charges that could land him in prison for decades. While he has said he wants to come home, he has refused to do so if he is not allowed to give a full-throated defense at his own trial, as the espionage charges might forbid that.

“We have told our international partners what we have said publicly: Mr. Snowden is accused of leaking classified information and faces felony charges here in the United States,” National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said.

“As such, he should be returned to the U.S. as soon as possible, where he will be accorded full due process.”

Snowden’s leaks caused heightened tensions between the U.S. and Germany last year, after one of the leaked documents showed U.S. officials spied on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s personal cellphone. 

While those revelations caused a diplomatic headache for the Obama administration, they have subsided somewhat in recent months, amid new fears about global terrorism and violent extremism.

This story was updated at 11:15 a.m.