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Committee to invite Edward Snowden to debate mass surveillance with US officials

A committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is to invite whistleblower Edward Snowden and US officials to Strasbourg to debate the two themes of mass surveillance and whistleblowing at linked public hearings in April.

Pieter Omtzigt (Netherlands, EPP/CD), who is preparing reports on both subjects for PACE’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, said Snowden could be invited to sum up his disclosures to date, and possibly make additional ones, while US representatives could be invited to take position on whether he was telling the truth – and if so, how such surveillance could be justified.

For a separate hearing on whistleblowing on the same day, Snowden could be invited to explain why he chose to go public with his former employer’s activities, while US officials could be invited to make the case that Mr Snowden was a criminal.

“I am aware that the proposal to invite Snowden is controversial, but listening to what he has to say does not mean that we adopt his position or endorse his actions,” said Mr Omtzigt in an introductory memorandum made public by the committee yesterday.

He acknowledged that Snowden might not be in a position to travel to Strasbourg, given that he was a wanted man in the US. “It will be ultimately up to Mr Snowden, in agreement with his Russian hosts, to decide whether he feels confident to accept such an invitation. As a fallback, we could invite Mr Snowden to participate in the hearing by way of teleconferencing.”