Edward Snowden is still stuck in Russia more than two years after revealing that the U.S. government engaged in mass surveillance on tens of millions of innocent Americans. If he returns to the United States he still faces the prospect of prison, unlike national-security officials who tortured or violated the law by secretly spying on their countrymen, or who have themselves leaked highly classified national-security information. President Obama shows no sign of granting him clemency to acknowledge the public service that he performed and the civil-liberties violations he exposed.
Snowden may, however, have a future as 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 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 vote is not binding on any particular member state, all of which have extradition treaties with the United States. But 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 U.S. pressure and grant Snowden political asylum. “This is not a blow against the US Government, but an open hand extended by friends,” Snowden said in a statement on Twitter. “It is a chance to move forward.”