back to article US threatened Berlin with intel blackout over Snowden asylum: report

The US Government threatened to starve Berlin of intelligence if it harboured fugitive document-leaker Edward Snowden, German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel says. The National Security Agency (NSA) leaker considered Germany as a place of refuge after he fled to Russia from the United States via Hong Kong in 2013. Moscow …

  1. Sir Runcible Spoon


    Not exactly surprising though is it?

    I mean, who would have thought the most well-funded Intelligence Agency representing the most powerful nation on Earth would throw their toys out of the pram like a small child?

    Everyone? Thought so.

    icon to represent children with Nukleer weapons

    1. Sandtitz Silver badge

      Re: Sir

      "icon to represent children with Nukleer weapons"

      Nukleer? It's 'nucular'. The three greatest US presidents (Carter, Clinton, W.Bush) have used it so it must be so.

      1. Sir Runcible Spoon

        Re: Sir

        Thanks for the correction, it's so difficult to keep up with the slide into idiocy that I sometimes miss the little things :)

      2. DropBear

        Re: Sir

        The three greatest US presidents (Carter, Clinton, W.Bush) have used it so it must be so.

        Much worse, any time someone utters the word on any science/education oriented TV channel (that people might expect a certain level of standards from), there is a 50-50 chance they'll use the wrong form...

      3. Steeev

        Re: Sir

        Shockingly this could be construed as evidence of a classical education; I believe Robert Brown (of Brownian motion fame) first used the word nucleus in a modern sense, "...from the Latin nucula, meaning little nut or kernel." (A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson.)

      4. asdf

        Re: Sir

        Carter the Nuclear Engineer? Must be that special education sounding Southern drawl of his making it sound that way.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Sir

          Hey, I resemble that remark! At least in terms of education. While wandering around checking the backside of the various panels, I found he'd applied his moniker to the back of the reactor control console. "James Earl Carter, III"

    2. Oninoshiko

      Re: Sir

      Generally speaking, "throwing ones toys out of the pram" refers to something which in the end is self-destructive. This doesn't meet that requirement, therefore your metaphor is poorly chosen. In fact, the opposite metaphor would be better, "taking all their toys and going home," although I suppose that doesn't entertain you as much.

      1. Hollerith 1

        Re: Sir

        I think 'throwing your toys out the the pram' means a stupid temper tantrum, and you don't really care about who or what it hurts.

      2. Sir Runcible Spoon

        Re: Sir

        @Oninoshiko, you are correct in almost every sense. I originally thought that they were bahaving the equivalent of a spoilt child who had taken their football home because no-one was treating him with uber-deference, but then again since ultimately all this overbearing oppression always leads to self-destruction in one form or another I stick by my original comment.

        Thanks for taking the time to deconstruct my argument and provide feedback though, it's always appreciated.

  2. Ole Juul

    Nice job you got there

    “They told us they would stop notifying us of plots and other intelligence matters,”

    That would result in lost jobs for German intel, but I don't think it would lead to a "heightened risk of terrorist and espionage attacks" as suggested. At least not if you look at demonstrated proof of concept to date.

    1. Christian Berger

      Re: Nice job you got there

      Actually there aren't many jobs in German Intel, it's all out sourced to the US. Germany sends their raw data over there and gets the results.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nice job you got there

        "Actually there aren't many jobs in German Intel, it's all out sourced to the US. Germany sends their raw data over there and gets the results."

        Interesting claim. This suggests quite the opposite:

        Very short summary: A BND (comparable to CIA) employee was arrested for sharing secrets with the NSA.

        The BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst) is alive and kicking. What they don't usually do is create huge headlines, which is a good thing for a secret/intelligence service. Makes them a lot more credible than certain agencies which are involved in running secret prisons, "enhanced interrogation techniques", snooping on friends and foes alike...

        The size of an agency does not always reflect how good it is, either.

    2. sysconfig

      Re: Nice job you got there

      "I don't think it would lead to a "heightened risk of terrorist and espionage attacks" as suggested"

      I don't think so either. After all Germany has not actively participated in a combatant role in any of the "wars on terror". All they do is offer humanitarian support.

      Actually I hope that Germany does show some hospitality towards Snowden and won't extradite him, should he choose to move there. It's time that one of the more important economies in the world man up and show the US that they can't always have it their way.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nice job you got there

        Anyone picking up on that if this intelligence gathering was important to saving lives, then this action would internally endanger lives? Or what about if it was purely about international terrorism, can 1 person dictate it's outcome?

        I think Germany and the U.S. cooked up this "scare" to influence the importance of this data gathering nations want, but they don't hire the best writers anymore, so the 3 act plot always seems increasingly poor and depressing. There's better climaxes in the videos I ... watch.

    3. Mephistro

      Re: Nice job you got there

      "but I don't think it would lead to a "heightened risk of terrorist and espionage attacks" as suggested. At least not if you look at demonstrated proof of concept to date."

      So sad, but so true!

  3. tom dial Silver badge

    This claim sounds a bit dubious, although it is entirely plausible that hints might have been let slip that giving Snowden asylum could affect the degree of cooperation. A cutoff of US intelligence cooperation with Germany surely would be reciprocated, and given Germany's importance in Europe and the world, and its large Muslim population, it is scarcely credible that US intelligence agencies would be willing to forego German cooperation over Snowden, given that his release of data was unrecoverable anyhow. Such a mutual cutoff would degrade the effectiveness of both countries' intelligence services to a comparable degree, and would degrade also their ability to support intelligence services in other more favored countries. Statements about willingness to cooperate on economic issues seem as likely or more.

    1. Gordon 10

      A government official or politician cutting off their nose to spite their face?

      Nooo sir that never happens.

    2. Paul Shirley

      @tom dial

      You're assuming the us *believes it needs* German cooperation. They've shown no hesitation to spy on allies to date or lie about it in public.

      In any case the overriding concern is to ensure no one else ever dares leak their misbehaviour. Only fleeing to a country able to obliterate the US and run by a leader that might actually do it stopped the chase this time.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: @tom dial

        He thinks "people in charge" have rational thinking processes.


        As an example, you may have noticed that the US is currently biggening up russian "incursions" into and "threats" against Ukraine, being apparently ready to increase the available pool of medals for generals, demand for military goods for contractors as well as the threat level to keep the rubes in line. This just costs them one Europe to obtain fame, fortune and new opportunities at home, who could resist?

    3. Ian Michael Gumby
      Black Helicopters


      The claim sounding dubious? Hardly.

      Like Manning, Snowden didn't blow any whistles and even more so, he had intent on committing the theft from day one. (He probably didn't think through his exit strategy though.)

      Any sane politician would do the same thing. If Germany isn't going to play ball, then neither should we.

      Of course the issue is that Germany wants to know what Snowden told his FSB 'captors' err I mean hosts.

      And to your point, yeah its a hollow threat. We need German intelligence on the Islamist activists in their part of the world. If you thought the US spied on its people... Germany and other countries do it and are much better at it.

      1. YetAnotherLocksmith Silver badge

        Re: @Tom


        What? Snowden didn't blow any whistles?

        That's you lost any credibility commenting on intelligence, well, forever, really.

        1. tom dial Silver badge

          Re: @Tom

          There are legally approved procedures for whistle blowers. While those available to Snowden were more limited than those available to civilian and military employees, there is no evidence that he tried to use them beyond his claim, which might reasonably be discounted somewhat based on the dishonesty of some of his other actions. Beyond that, a number of senators and representatives probably would have been open to information about infringement on US civil rights and liberties and interested in initiating legislation to curb NSA excesses. That would not have prevented executive branch harassment any more than it did for J. Kirk Wiebe, William Binney, Thomas Drake, or Russell Tice. Without deprecating their treatment, it is not obvious that it is in the long run worse that what Edward Snowden will experience.

          From the range of material that Snowden collected and the way he chose to release it, it appears he may have intended to inflict damage to US and allied intelligence activities beyond simply blowing the whistle on what he thought violations of US law and Constitutional rights of US citizens..

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @Tom

            Having encountered the same hostility from the chain of command and/or the bureaucrats (who were consulted by the chain), I still don't see any other mechanism available. It only becomes a question as to whether you're willing to follow through with it. He had/has the moral courage. I still don't.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    intel blackout threat

    ....while at the same time bugging Angela Merkel's telephone.

    1. YetAnotherLocksmith Silver badge

      Re: intel blackout threat

      You have to recall that this happened *before* Snowden blew the whistle on that bit of spying!

  5. PCS

    Not quite on-topic but I'd love to know what Snowdon's idea of a fair trial is? One where he isn't accused of treason? Maybe a slap on the wrist?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'm not sure, but...

      Surely the U.S. would not want his attorneys to introduce a bag full of thumb drives into evidence in open court.

    2. Thought About IT

      Fair trial

      I think he wants a trial by jury, rather than one held in secret which has been stitched up in advance. The US government has refused.

      1. Ian Michael Gumby

        Re: Fair trial

        When you're accused of stealing a bunch of secrets, which he did... you're not going to get a trial in public. Look on the bright side. If he did this to Putin... there would be no trial. No exile. He would have been killed long ago by some FSB/KGB person.

        Snowden is the definition of irony.

      2. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: Fair trial

        "The US government has refused [a trial by jury.]"

        Citation please, that's a basic sixth amendment right, and Snowden does not lack for qualified US lawyers.

        And for those imagining Snowden's transfer to the Guantanamo Bay facility: other than Yassir Hamzi (and the prison staff) did any US citizen do time there?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Fair trial

          With an Executive branch more than willing to keep an US citizen in Gitmo or worse, a stated claim that they won't hesitate to use a drone-strike on a US citizen.... You do the math.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I am not sure what guarantee he could trust really. Look at Gitmo, poor fuckers in there for 10+ years without a trial, the innocent author of Guantánamo Diary was ordered released in 2010 by a federal judge and he is still in prison 5 years later.

      Snowdon would have to be mad to agree to a trial in the US.

  6. Tromos

    No intel?

    They'll just have to settle for AMD then.

    1. Michael Habel

      Re: No intel?

      Well at least AMD (Dresden), is closer to home then Santa Clara, California. (Intel)

  7. deadlockvictim

    Black & White

    You are either with (the) US or you are against (the) US.

    Or so it would seem.

    It might explain why no country has offered Snowden asylum, despite the fact that he is one of the most obvious cases for it in the last decade or so.

    1. DropBear

      Re: Black & White

      LMFTFY: You are either with us and we're against you, or we're just both against each other.

    2. regadpellagru

      Re: Black & White

      "It might explain why no country has offered Snowden asylum, despite the fact that he is one of the most obvious cases for it in the last decade or so."

      Exactly. Let's remember, although only this german bloke has yet confessed the pressure, it's very likely it was used on other governments as well.

      This woud explain France for example blocked the flight from an ambassador, on suspicion Snowden may be in it.

      This confession anyway shows how freaking furious the US officials were, when Snowden fled.

      1. YetAnotherLocksmith Silver badge

        Re: Black & White

        Honestly? The USA is punishing Russia as hard as it can, currently. Forcing down gas and oil as low as they can to upset the Russian economy, pushing hard in the Ukraine, & they do have a long history of triggering and funding messy coups in otherwise quite stable countries.

        The US military strategy is to be able to beat the rest of the world in a fight, allies and all, at the same time, (& likely most of their own population too). That should tell you all that you need to know about what those running that particular show think of the rest of us.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Black & White

          Well, the ties between Saudi Arabia and the US might explain why Saudi Arabia is keeping the price low with overproduction. That's whether you factor in Snowden or other behaviors that this Administration doesn't care for by Moscow.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    And the W10 Trojan Horse

    "Windows 10 for desktop will be available on devices with or without TPM at launch… but by the summer of 2016 Microsoft will require all computers shipping with the desktop version of the operating system to feature TPM 2.0"

    There's been a lot written about TPM both positive and negative, I'm of the beware Greeks septic tanks bearing gifts camp.

    Over to you Eddie Snowden.

    1. yossarianuk

      Re: And the W10 Trojan Horse

      Stallman's going to go nuts.

    2. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: And the W10 Trojan Horse

      Another reason, if one is needed, to eschew Windows.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And the W10 Trojan Horse

        Or upgrading to Windows Desktop Next. And unless something thoroughly compelling comes along in the feature list, Windows Server Next as well. I love it when enterprisey features finally get to SMB's, even/especially SOHO, but I don't consider this a feature, rather a demand. For a corporation with a pattern of cooperating with the NSA (Stuxnet Windows Update cert., Skype), less so with agencies on public record, that's an interesting demand. (I know, tinfoil hat time).

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    " The National Security Agency (NSA) leaker considered Germany as a place of refuge after he fled to Russia from the United States via Hong Kong in 2013. "

    He did not "flee to Russia". He was on his way to a third country when he became stuck in Russia due to uncertainty following the cancellation of his passport by US authorities.

    I hope the rest of your reporting is a bit more accurate than this.

  10. Alan Denman

    Not another backdoor...

    or so I thought.

    Where is that Intel CPU off switch.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    UK is threatening to do the same if Germany continues its enquiry into UK + US spying.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Two points

    A) the intel community in the U.S. are spoiled jerks

    B) Germany set itself up for this when it outsourced it's national security to the Pentagon.

  13. Mark 85

    Snowden is a pawn.

    There's power struggles still going on between countries. For the US to make this threat indicates the stakes are very high. True, Germany hasn't had terrorist attacks in the latest round. But go back not very far and they did... the Olympics... the Red Brigades...

    I'm believing this was cooked up between the US and Germany as Snowden could have been allowed into Germany and then handed over to the US. As it is, he's a pawn, sitting in Russia and being used by both sides and I'll include the EU on the US side for this. When his usefulness is over, there will probably be a very serious accident in Moscow and the "Snowden problem" will go away.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fragging by any other name

    In wars past, turning your weapon on another member of your unit, or through purposeful inaction allowing them to come to harm, was called fragging.

    For the NSA, a military unit, to threaten an important European ally over something that is now purely political, is sickening. Snowden happened, this is nobody else's fault but the NSA, and sending him to Gitmo or giving him asylum will not change anything operationally for the US, Germany, or the planet. Thinking otherwise is a display of almost breathtaking short-sightedness.

    If I was in German intelligence or any NATO ally, I would really begin to wonder if these people could be trusted to not turn and run during an actual war, you know, with bullets instead of cyberpackets.

  15. crayon

    @Ian Michael Gumby

    "Snowden is the definition of irony."

    The irony is that he has been forced by countries that claim to have the highest safeguards for human rights to find refuge in a country with a less than stellar human rights record.

    1. Chris Hance

      Re: @Ian Michael Gumby

      The US record on human rights is spotless. You merely have to accept the government's current definition of "human". And perhaps "rights" as well.

      And we may as well define "record" to include only the information intentionally released to the public while we're at it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @Ian Michael Gumby

        Ah, but you fail to understand (imagine) that we have a Constitutional Law lawyer in charge here and like the Living Constitution he advocates, the same applies to rights or any legal framework, or individual law. All are a redefinition or reinterpretation away from what ever you happen to hold to be true to The Powers That Be. Nice and flexible.

  16. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    whistleblowing and 2 party system

    "There are legally approved procedures for whistle blowers."

    These procedures were used in 2002 to document the NSA's illegal and unconstitutional activities. This included specific documentation of an NSA facility within a specific AT&T long distance phone center, and documentation suggesting a similar setup was in several other AT&T long-lines facilities. This was in the New York Times. This seemed to be picked up online, but not more widely by the old media (TV news, other newspapers, etc.) Do you remember hearing about this? Most don't, it was really kept on the down low. The EFF (Electronic Freedom Foundation) also received a copy of these documents. Absurdly, when they attempted to use some of these documents they received in a trial against the illegal wiretapping, they were told they were secret and therefore inelligible for use at trial. When they tried to use the New York Times articles, they were told THOSE nationally published news articles were also secret and inelligibile for use at trial!

    "While those available to Snowden were more limited than those available to civilian and military employees, there is no evidence that he tried to use them beyond his claim"

    Per the above, he probably did just as he claimed, and due to practice from 2002, they got his whistle blowing "disappeared" before it got into the papers this time around. A standard, documented, procedure for dealing with those these types of agencies don't care for is to discredit them, so I'm not surprised they would be "unable to find" any evidence he attempted to use proper whistleblower procedures.

    ", which might reasonably be discounted somewhat based on the dishonesty of some of his other actions."

    Nonsense sentence fragment. You see his behavior as dishonest, I see him doing what any patriot should have done in the face of widespread illegal and unconstitutional activities by a government agency.

    "Beyond that, a number of senators and representatives probably would have been open to information about infringement on US civil rights and liberties and interested in initiating legislation to curb NSA excesses."

    You'd think so wouldn't you? Patriotic senators and representatives like Rand Paul and Ron Paul have spoken vehemently against the NSA's actions. But, others at the time (2002) either dismissed the claims, went on and on about "balancing" (meaning "taking away") people's rights and privacy in the interest of security, or thought other topics are more important than people's civil rights, ignoring their oaths to defend the constitution. Just as they continue to do now.

    Since the US has a broken 2-party system (where the two parties would probably be a single party in most countries where there are like 2 or 3 larger parties and several smaller ones), there has been no chance for a party to champion reducing the NSA's unbridled power; and there have not been enough individuals running for office making this an issue for the populace to be able to really have any say in the issue whatsoever by voting people into or out of office.

    (Side bar -- I think the source of the 2-party system's lock on the elections is the polls. I have gotten two political poll calls asking what party or who I was voting for -- the 1st only had 2 choices of course from the 2 main parties, without even a 3rd choice of "none of the above" or "someone else." The second poll *did* have a choice of "push 9 for someone else", then said "Your choice is invalid" and obviously didn't record my selection! Even when a 3rd party candidate has gotten 10% of the vote, or in a few cases even won an election, the polls will indicate the 2 main parties getting 100% support due to invalid poll design. Too many voters are a tad sheep-like, and consider it "throwing away their vote" (not my term!) to vote for someone they actually want in office if they don't think they will get much of the vote, so these polls really do effect the election much more than they should. Don't get me wrong, I don't think fixing the polls to acknowledge the existence of 3rd parties would radically change the political landscape in the next like 4 or 8 years, but long term I think it'd make the political landscape here much healthier than it is now, there'd at least be the threat that if these two parties become *TOO* ineffective (as some complain off-and-on is happening) they'd have the risk of both parties being voted out of office.)

  17. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Don't come back!

    Snowden, I really do urge you to not come back.

    Zero'th, I doubt it given the publicity, but there is the chance if you came to the US you'd simply disappear or not make it to trial.

    First, there are police agencies in the US that view their goal as picking up the "perp" by any means necessary (viewing things such as warrants and properly collecting evidence as nuisances to be worked around), and courts that view their goal as getting the "perp" in jail rather than giving them a fair trial. If you deal with these types, you could probably get whatever assurances you want (even in writing) and they would really not amount to jack, you would not get a fair trial in any way.

    Second.... even with a fair trial... although I think this document release was important, it was quite illegal, and I fully expect even given a fully fair trial that you're seriously going to have the book thrown at you. I guess you'd have a sense of catharsis at his point, but I seriously doubt it's worth it.

    Finally... Those naysayers who have naysayed just based on your releasing documents then leaving the country... I've always assumed his was a diversionary tactic of sorts on their part (avoiding dealing with the actual content of these documents) and I don't expect these people to suddenly focus on the documents instead just because you return to be put on trial.

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