I have commented before on the self-contradictions in the attempts by the US to portray Edward Snowden as a common criminal, while themselves taking an “everybody does it” approach to flouting other countries’ laws, and, indeed, its own Constitution.
Now comes a report in Der Spiegel, on a legal opinion presented by the US to a German parliamentary investigatory committee that is considering inviting testimony from Snowden:
Es sei bereits eine “strafbare Handlung”, so der US-Jurist, wenn der “Haupttäter” (gemeint ist Snowden, Anm. Redaktion) etwa durch deutsche Parlamentarier veranlasst werde, geheime Informationen preiszugeben. Gegebenenfalls könne das als “Diebstahl staatlichen Eigentums” gewertet werden. Je nach Faktenlagen könnten Strafverfolger gar von einer “Verschwörung” (conspiracy) ausgehen.
It would be in itself a “criminal offence”, according to the US lawyer, if the “offender” (meaning Snowden) were induced by, for example, German members of Parliament, to reveal secret information. This could be considered “theft of state property”. Depending on the exact circumstances, it could even be prosecuted as a “conspiracy”.
Are US intelligence services really advocating the principle that acquiring secret information from other governments is a criminal offence, one for which individual legislators or indeed an entire parliamentary committee (and why not the whole German Bundestag, and the government to boot?) could be prosecuted? I think it shows the extent to which the US government is, in the Age of Obama, sees international law as a set of rhetorical tricks for expressing the hopelessness of any resistance to US government interests, rather than any set of rules and principles to which all might be subject.
But maybe they really mean to establish the principle that asking for information is illegal. The only valid way to obtain information is theft or torture.