EU votes to drop charges against Edward Snowden

The European Parliament voted on October 29 to drop all criminal charges against NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and offer him asylum and protection from rendition from third parties, The Independent said that day.

MEPs voted 285-281 to recognise Snowden's status as a “human rights defender”. The resolution asked member states to grant him protection from extradition to the US, where he is wanted under several Espionage Act charges.

The resolution also said “too little has been done to safeguard citizens' fundamental rights following revelations of electronic mass surveillance”. Snowden exposed the extent of the National Security Agency's spying program in 2013.

TeleSUR English said that day that the resolution also slammed the European Commission and others for not having properly applied a previous European Parliament resolution passed in March last year, shortly after Snowden's shocking revelations on the US-EU Safe Harbour scheme. Implemented since 2000, the Safe Harbour Scheme allowed US companies to transfer data from the EU to the United States.

TeleSUR English said the EU Court of Justice declared the scheme invalid on October 6. The MEPs welcomed the court's decision, saying: “This ruling has confirmed the long-standing position of Parliament regarding the lack of an adequate level of protection under this instrument.”

They urged the Commission to “immediately take the necessary measures to ensure that all personal data transferred to the US are subject to an effective level of protection that is essentially equivalent to that guaranteed in the EU.”

The resolution also expressed concern about recent bills passed in France, Britain, and the Netherlands, among others, that extend surveillance and the power of intelligence agencies.

The collaboration between the German intelligence body BDE with NSA was cited as an example that citizens' interests are not taken into account.

The Independent said the EU Commission was also being urged to ensure that all data transfers to the US were subject to an “effective level of protection”.

The Independent said: “It is up to individual member states to implement the resolution. Snowden himself seems to be overwhelmed by the development.”

Calling it a “game-changer”, 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 Independent noted: “The 31-year-old has been living in exile in Russia for two years and is still waiting on asylum decisions from 21 different countries.”

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