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.”
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.