NSA contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden should not face criminal charges and should be granted protection as a “human rights defender” against extradition from Europe, according to a vote by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs).
In a vote of 285 to 281, MEPs — made up of representatives from the 28 constituent European Union states — called on all E.U. countries to “drop any criminal charges against Edward Snowden, grant him protection and consequently prevent extradition or rendition by third parties, in recognition of his status as whistle-blower and international human rights defender.”
Snowden has been living in Moscow since June 2013, with most countries around the world refusing him asylum. But with increasing pressure from within Europe to change the way the E.U. cooperates with the U.S. in terms of sharing data, which recently led to the quashing of the Safe Harbor Pact, attention has clearly been drawn back to Snowden. Indeed, it was Snowden’s actions in 2013 — revealing details on government snooping programs and other confidential information — that kickstarted the global debate on online privacy.
In a press release issued today, the European Parliament stressed its concerns about mass surveillance, saying that “too little has been done to safeguard citizens’ fundamental rights following revelations of electronic mass surveillance.”
It’s worth noting that today’s vote is not a final resolution. MEPs have the right to put questions to the European Commission and the Council of the European Union and vote to achieve consensus, which is what they have done. Whether member countries take note is an entirely different issue.
However, it is a noteworthy turn of events, one that Snowden himself was keen to point out.
This is not a blow against the US Government, but an open hand extended by friends. It is a chance to move forward. pic.twitter.com/fBs5H32wyD
— Edward Snowden (@Snowden) October 29, 2015
Separately, the MEPs urged the E.U. Commission to “ensure that all data transfers to the U.S. are subject to a ‘effective level of protection,'” a resolution that was voted in favor of by 342 to 274. The resolution expresses concern about the lack of action taken by Europe following recommendations issued by the European Parliament in 2014 on the electronic mass surveillance of E.U. citizens, which were a direct result of Snowden’s revelations.
MEPs ask the Commission to:
Take the necessary measures to ensure that all personal data transferred to the US are subject to an effective level of protection that is essentially equivalent to that guaranteed in the EU.
While there may be a growing army of Snowden-supporting politicians in Europe, it’s not likely he’ll be able to return to the U.S. anytime soon without fear of prosecution. Indeed, he’s currently up against at least three charges under the Espionage Act, and the White House recently rejected a We the People petition to pardon him.