The European Parliament today called on its member states to drop criminal charges against Edward Snowden, the former contractor who leaked a ton of top secret documents that revealed just how vast the electronic spying programs of the National Security Agency are. The whistleblower went to Hong Kong prior to leaking the first trove of documents and for the past year or so has been living in Russia as he faces criminal charges upon his return to the United States.
It was a 285 to 281 vote but ultimately it turned out in Snowden’s favor. The European Parliament has said that Snowden must be protected as a whistleblower, going so far as to call him an “international human rights defender,” and calling for countries to provide him protection and consequently prevent extradition or rendition by “third parties.”
The European Parliament has also passed a resolution which took into account responses from member countries after Snowden made the leaks, it believes that not enough progress has been made to clamp down on mass surveillance even after the leaks exposed some widespread programs.
It’s a great symbolic move but it doesn’t have much weight in law, the Parliament’s vote on this matter is not binding on member countries so they aren’t legally obligated to do what has now been proposed. There has been talk of Snowden eventually getting asylum in Europe but the reaction to that has been mixed, it appears that for the time being he’ll have to bear with his accommodations in the Russian capital.
Responding to the vote, Edward Snowden tweeted the following:
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