In a close vote on Thursday, the European Union decided to drop all charges against whistleblower Edward Snowden.
In a 285-281 vote the EU members agreed to offer Snowden asylum and protect him from rendition to the United States.
Furthermore in the resolution, the EU urges its members not only to drop charges against Snowden, but to recognize him as a “whistle-blower and international human rights defender”.
Edward Snowden is wanted in the United States for violating the Espionage Act. Snowden brought to light the NSA bulk data collection and domestic spying program which has been declared illegal by at least one U.S. judge and may violate the Fourth Amendment.
“Too little has been done to safeguard citizens’ fundamental rights following revelations of electronic mass surveillance,” said one Member of the European Parliament (MEP).
Seeing as how close this vote was, clearly some EU members are wary of alienating the United States, who have maintained that Snowden is a criminal.
“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.”
The concern of the EU over the privacy rights of their citizens seems to outweigh any fear they might have of alienating the U.S.
“EU citizens’ fundamental rights remain in danger,” said one MEP referring to the NSA program revealed by Snowden. “Too little has been done to ensure their full protection.”
While Snowden himself did call this move a “game changer” he hesitated from celebrating too loudly.
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 EU seems to now be going in the opposite direction from the United States when it comes to the balance between civil liberties and national security.
Ironically, it was the American Founding Fathers who warned against sacrificing the rights of citizens in the name of national security.
“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety,” said Benjamin Franklin.
Or as Patrick Henry put it more simply, “give me liberty or give me death.”
[The New York Times] [European Parliament] [The Independent]