EU Parliament Clears a Path to Give Snowden Asylum
As winter approaches in Moscow, Snowden may have new hope of a safe haven in a warmer expatriate climate: The European Union.
On Thursday the EU parliament voted by a narrow margin of 285-281 to protect Snowden from extradition if he were to reside in Europe, a step toward allowing the NSA leaker to leave Moscow and safely live or travel on the continent. The motion, according to a statement from the parliament, will “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.”
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
The resolution against extradition was passed alongside another, more broadly approved call to better protect EU citizens’ personal data from surveillance. That resolution backs up a ruling from the European Court of Justice earlier this month that struck down a fifteen-year-old “Safe Harbor” provision that had allowed U.S. tech companies to freely transfer Europeans’ data from Europe-based servers to the U.S., regardless of local privacy laws. The new EU parliament resolution applauds that ruling, and calls on the European Commission to “immediately take the necessary measures to ensure that all personal data transferred to the U.S. are subject to an effective level of protection that is essentially equivalent to that guaranteed in the EU.”
All of those moves reflect Europe’s slow-burning backlash against U.S. surveillance stemming from Snowden’s 2013 leaks about vast NSA surveillance of foreigners, including the PRISM program’s collection of non-Americans’ private data from Silicon Valley firms. Those internet-shaking leaks were followed by others from still-unnamed sources that showed NSA spying on European governments that extended all the way to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone and surveillance of three administrations of French presidents, including listening in on their phone calls.
Snowden, meanwhile, has been holed up in Moscow since 2013, making public appearances elsewhere via video stream and the occasional telepresence robot. But prior to finding a semi-permanent haven in Russia, he applied for asylum in 21 countries according to a 2013 statement from WikiLeaks, including Germany, the Netherlands, and Norway. None of those countries granted him asylum at the time. As the full extent of his revelations has become clear—and Europe has had two years to mull their ramifications—those countries may now be reconsidering their stance towards America’s most-wanted whistleblower.