Former CIA employee and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has not yet received a United States government pardon, but he may soon be a free man in Europe.
On Thursday, the European Parliament voted 285 to 281 to call on EU member states to "drop any criminal charges against Mr. Snowden, grant him protection, and consequently prevent extradition or rendition by third parties.”
Though the vote does not ensure any member states will actually issue pardons, the measure does represent progress for Mr. Snowden.
“It suggests that there is a measure of popular and elite support for the mass-surveillance truth-teller that would be a prerequisite were a European state to defy US pressure and grant Snowden political asylum,” reported The Atlantic.
The US government has been mostly negative on the possibility of cutting a deal with Snowden. President Obama denied a pardon request in July, and a promise that he would not be tortured upon his return to the US is small comfort.
Categorized by The New York Times as “nonbinding but nonetheless forceful,” the resolution could change the playing field and perhaps provide precedence for the US to follow suit.
Following the announcement Snowden tweeted, “This is not a blow against the US Government, but an open hand extended by friends. It is a chance to move forward.”
The close vote suggests the EU has no intention of alienating the US, but a member state granting protection could provide Snowden with mobility.
Though Bolivia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua offered Snowden asylum two years ago, Snowden has remained in Russia out of fear that the US government could arrest him while in transit to Latin America. A move to a closer European nation would likely pose less risk.
However, all EU nations have outstanding extradition treaties with the US, so it remains unclear whether any member will be willing to waive this agreement in favor of supporting the human-rights defender.
At the very least, the resolution indicates the conversation isn’t closed. Wolfgang Kaleck, Snowden’s representative and founder of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights said in a statement, “It is an overdue step, and we urge the member states to act now to implement the resolution.”