(Above) Photo Credit: Wired
The following from the New York Times:
European Parliament Urges Protection for Edward Snowden
By JAMES KANTER and SEWELL CHAN
OCTOBER 29, 2015
BRUSSELS — The European Parliament narrowly adopted a nonbinding but nonetheless forceful resolution on Thursday urging the 28 nations of the European Union to recognize Edward J. Snowden as a “whistle-blower and international human rights defender” and shield him from prosecution.
On Twitter, Mr. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked millions of documents about electronic surveillance by the United States government, called the vote a “game-changer.” But the resolution has no legal force and limited practical effect for Mr. Snowden, who is living in Russia on a three-year residency permit.
Whether to grant Mr. Snowden asylum remains a decision for the individual European governments, and none have done so thus far.
Still, the resolution was the strongest statement of support seen for Mr. Snowden from the European Parliament. At the same time, the close vote — 285 to 281 — suggested the extent to which some European lawmakers are wary of alienating the United States.
Many European citizens have expressed sympathy for Mr. Snowden and criticism of eavesdropping and wiretapping by the United States and its closest intelligence-sharing allies, which include Britain and Canada.
The resolution calls on European Union members to “drop any criminal charges against Edward Snowden, grant him protection and consequently prevent extradition or rendition by third parties.”
In June 2013, shortly after Mr. Snowden’s leaks became public, the United States charged him with theft of government property and violations of the Espionage Act of 1917. By then, he had flown to Moscow, where he spent weeks in legal limbo before he was granted temporary asylum and, later, a residency permit.
Four Latin American nations have offered him permanent asylum, but he does not believe he could travel from Russia to those countries without running the risk of arrest and extradition to the United States along the way.
The White House, which has used diplomatic efforts to discourage even symbolic resolutions of support for Mr. Snowden, immediately criticized the resolution.
“Our position has not changed,” said Ned Price, a spokesman for the National Security Council in Washington.
“Mr. Snowden is accused of leaking classified information and faces felony charges here in the United States. As such, he should be returned to the U.S. as soon as possible, where he will be accorded full due process.”
Jan Philipp Albrecht, one of the lawmakers who sponsored the resolution in Europe, said it should increase pressure on national governments.
“It’s the first time a Parliament votes to ask for this to be done — and it’s the European Parliament,” Mr. Albrecht, a German lawmaker with the Greens political bloc, said in a phone interview shortly after the vote, which was held in Strasbourg, France. “So this has an impact surely on the debate in the member states.”
The resolution “is asking or demanding the member states’ governments to end all the charges and to prevent any extradition to a third party,” Mr. Albrecht said. “That’s a very clear call, and that can’t be just ignored by the governments,” he said.
Mr. Albrecht said the close vote on the matter reflected the divide between a progressive, pro-civil-liberties wing of the Parliament and a centrist, conservative wing.
Wolfgang Kaleck, a German civil rights lawyer who founded the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights and represents Mr. Snowden, praised the resolution.
“It is an overdue step, and we urge the member states to act now to implement the resolution,” he said in a statement.
James Kanter reported from Brussels, and Sewell Chan from London.