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NSA fugitive leaker Edward Snowden denied US clemency

Senior US lawmakers in Congress have rejected the idea of granting fugitive intelligence leaker Edward Snowden any clemency. Snowden, who has asylum in Russia, is wanted in the US on espionage charges.

Senior American lawmakers said Sunday that former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden should not be given clemency following his disclosures of widespread government surveillance.

Snowden is wanted in the US on espionage charges.

Head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, said in an interview with CBS television's "Face the Nation" that Snowden should have reported his concerns to her committee privately.

"We would have seen him and we would have looked at that information. That didn't happen, and now he's done this enormous disservice to our country," she said, "I think the answer is no clemency."

The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Mike Rogers, called clemency for Snowden a "terrible idea."

"He needs to come back and own up," said Rogers. "If he believes there (are) vulnerabilities in the systems he'd like to disclose, you don't do it by committing a crime that actually puts soldiers' lives at risk in places like Afghanistan."

Snowden speaks out

The reaction from the heads of the Senate and House intelligence committees comes just days after German Green Party lawmaker Hans-Christian Ströbele met with Snowden and published a letter from him that said he was ready to testify to Congress to shed light on "possibly serious offenses."

In the one-page typed letter, Snowden asks for clemency for charges over allegedly leaking classified information about the NSA to the news media.

Ströbele met with Snowden late Thursday in Moscow, where he was granted asylum in August, to discuss his leaked revelations that Washington monitored German Chancellor Angela Merkel's cellphone. Snowden also said that he was prepared to testify before the German parliament on the condition that his security could be guaranteed.

Snowden's revelations have led to calls by allies to cease such spying, and sparked moves by Congress to overhaul US surveillance laws.

In a "Manifesto for the Truth" published in German news magazine Der Spiegel on Sunday, Snowden said mass secret surveillance poses a threat to freedom of expression and open society. He also said, however, that current debates about mass surveillance has shown that his revelations were helping to bring about change.

"Instead of causing damage, the usefulness of the new public knowledge for society is now clear because reforms to politics, supervision and laws are being suggested," the 30-year-old wrote.

"Those who speak the truth are not committing a crime," he said.

hc/lw (Reuters, AFP, AP)