Some time on Thursday evening....our NSA geek....Ed Snowden....had a quiet two-hour meeting with a member of the German government (Hans-Christian Stroebele, a Green Party representative). Storoebele in this case....has two interesting features.
Storoebele is one of the folks on the Bundestag committee who addresses intelligence affairs in Germany. He knows the general business.
The second interesting detail is that Storoebele is often on German TV and generally recognized by the public. He does present decent arguments, and generally assembles the facts for a case.
Folks might have issues with his party affiliation but Storoebele is likely someone that can work with both the SPD and the CDU.
The outcome of this Snowden meeting? Merely a letter written by Snowden....to be given to Chancellor Merkel. Positive words came between Storoebele and Snowden....but other than that....nothing much else. No second meeting mentioned....no promises....no details. Just a friendly meeting.
What happens next? Merkel will read the letter.....determine how the US meetings are going....and quietly assemble a crew to view a Snowden deal.
My humble guess is that general amnesty has to be offered, in a very tightly worded deal. You share everything....now....no later admissions of more data or comments. You refrain from financial gain from the episode. You quietly situate yourself in Germany....no TV interviews....no books....nothing.
The gain from Merkel? She knows every detail of the NSA game. The Obama Administration would have to race then....to make all of Germany's requirements an accomplished feat. Failure? The Chancellor has all the cards in the deck and can start to prosecute the US in a court atmosphere, or a news media game.
For Snowden....he gets an exit pass out of Russia....which might be the biggest gain. On the loss side....he likely gets no future secrets to release, and his hour of national media attention would come to an end.
Merkel could stand there and demand absolutely no spying on German or French companies, period. The Obama administration would be deeply in a mess at that point. And somewhere in this whole affair....Merkel is likely to ask that NSA leave Germany permanently.
I'm not optimistic over this episode concluding cleanly. It could months from a conclusion, and with cards still in play and yet on the table in full view.....we might be shocked at how this all concludes.