BERLIN — The U.S. refused to show any leniency to fugitive leaker Edward Snowden on Friday, even as Secretary of State John Kerry conceded that eavesdropping on allies had happened on "automatic pilot" and went too far.
Snowden made his appeal for U.S. clemency in a letter released Friday by a German lawmaker who met with him in Moscow. In it, the 30-year-old American asked for international help to persuade the U.S. to drop spying charges against him and said he would like to testify before the U.S. Congress about the National Security Agency's surveillance activities.
Snowden also indicated he would be willing to help German officials investigate alleged U.S. spying in Germany, said Hans-Christian Stroebele, a lawmaker with the opposition Green Party and a member of the parliamentary committee that oversees German intelligence.
Stroebele met with Snowden for three hours on Thursday, a week after explosive allegations that the NSA had monitored Chancellor Angela Merkel's cellphone prompted her to complain personally to President Barack Obama. The alleged spying has produced the most serious diplomatic tensions between the two allies since Germany opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
In his one-page typed letter, written in English and bearing signatures that Stroebele said were his own and Snowden's, the American complained that the U.S. government "continues to treat dissent as defection, and seeks to criminalize political speech with felony charges that provide no defense."
"However, speaking the truth is not a crime," Snowden wrote. "I am confident that with the support of the international community, the government of the United States will abandon this harmful behavior."
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki would not respond directly to Snowden's appeal, but said the U.S. position "has not changed."