Europe wants to protect 'human rights defender' Edward Snowden from the US

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Edward Snowden could have a new friend, and place of exile, in Europe. Currently in Russia, Snowden today found himself the subject of an EU vote seeking to drop any criminal charges against the former NSA contractor.

The vote passed 285 to 281 and is likely to upset the US. This is because member states are also looking to extend protection to Snowden and prevent extradition by third parties, calling him an "international human rights defender".

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Calls were also made to ensure that an "effective level of protection" was applied to data transferred between Europe and the US. Specifically, the European Parliament is looking for Europe-US data transfers to be protected in the same way as inter-Europe transfers. In a statement, Parliament said that the EU needed to rebuild trust with the US, and voiced concern about the activities of some European countries:

Parliament is concerned about "recent laws in some member states that extend surveillance capabilities of intelligence bodies", including in France, the UK and the Netherlands. It is also worried by revelations of mass surveillance of telecommunications and internet traffic inside the EU by the German foreign intelligence agency BND in cooperation with the US National Security Agency (NSA).

But it is the vote about Edward Snowden that is the real news of the day. The man himself was understandably surprised and pleased at the news, and took to Twitter to say so:

He was also quick to say that the US should not see this as an aggressive move by Europe:

But the US is already unimpressed. National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said:

Our position has not changed. 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 US as soon as possible, where he will be accorded full due process.

Snowden's Berlin-based lawyer, Wolfgang Kaleck, said:

We welcome today's decision of the European Parliament recognizing Edward Snowden as a human rights defender and calling upon member states to grant him protection from prosecution. It is an overdue step and we urge the member States to act now to implement the resolution.

Photo credit: GongTo / Shutterstock

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