MPs call for asylum for Edward Snowden
London meeting demands action on surveillance. Padraig Reidy reports
05 Nov 13
(Photo: David von Blohn / Demotix)

(Photo: David von Blohn / Demotix)

German and British MPs last night called for NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to be granted asylum in Germany.

Addressing a meeting called to support the Guardian newspaper in the face of threats from the British government, Conservative MP David Davis said that safeguards for whistleblowers were the only way to protect civilians from an overreaching surveillance and security apparatus, adding that “If whistleblowers can look forward to a life in Germany rather than a life in Moscow, I think that would improve things for everybody.”

German Green Party MP Konstantin Von Notz had earlier said that his country “needed to grant political asylum to Edward Snowden.”

The issue of surveillance has been hotly debated in Germany since it was revealed that the United States’ National Security Agency had been monitoring Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone.

But speakers at the London meeting, convened by Observer and Vanity Fair journalist Henry Porter, expressed concern that a similar debate was not taking place in the United Kingdom.

Conservative MP Rory Stewart suggested that parliament’s intelligence and security committee should be openly elected and led by an opposition MP, thereby encouraging greater scrutiny of the security services’ actions.

“You are never going to have a government backbencher chairing a committee that is going to criticise the government properly,” said Stewart, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and a former diplomat.

Addressing Prime Minister David Cameron’s suggestion that measures would need to be taken to prevent the Guardian from publishing further revelations about surveillance by US and UK authorities, Davis said that no government in any other country where the stories had been published had attacked newspapers in the way the UK government had attacked the Guardian. He said “the only reason [the government] is doing this is out of embarrassment.”

The meeting, held at the Royal Institute for British Architects, heard from English PEN director Jo Glanville, who criticised David Cameron’s dismissal of civil liberties concerns about surveillance as “la-di-da” and “airy-fairy”. Davis echoed that sentiment, saying he delighted in being called “la-di-da” by old Etonian Cameron.

By Padraig Reidy

Padraig Reidy is the editor of Little Atoms and a columnist for Index on Censorship. He has also written for The Observer, The Guardian, and The Irish Times.