Edward Snowden wants asylum in EU

07.03.14 @ 19:04

  1. By Nikolaj Nielsen
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BRUSSELS - Former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden wants asylum in Europe.

  • Snowden says no western government has presented evidence to show bulk collection programmes are necessary (Photo: -lucky cat-)

In a series of responses delivered to the European Parliament ahead of next week’s debate on mass surveillance, Snowden told euro-deputies he wants protection in the EU.

“As for asylum, I do seek EU asylum, but I have yet to receive a positive response to requests I sent to various EU member states,” he said in a 12-page statement on Friday (7 March).

Snowden, who is wanted by the Americans for theft of government property and unauthorised communication of national defense information, has taken refuge somewhere in Russia.

The 30-year old could face up to three decades in a federal prison after disclosing the scale and scope of US-led mass surveillance to a handful of international media outlets last summer.

With Russia’s one-year offer for temporary asylum set to expire on 31 July, Snowden says he would welcome any offer of safe passage or permanent asylum in the EU.

“I recognise that would require an act of extraordinary political courage,” he added.

In his statement, Snowden said he had repeatedly raised concerns about the legal implications of the snooping programmes with his co-workers and superiors.

“I had reported these clearly problematic programmes to more than ten distinct officials, none of whom took any action to address them,” he said.

Snowden said those who question bulk surveillance are immediately flagged as troublemakers.

“Everyone in the intelligence community is aware of what happens to people who report concerns about unlawful but authorised operations,” he said.

The US, for its part, reformed its whistleblower laws in 2012 but the statute excludes intelligence agencies.

“The result was that individuals like me were left with no proper channels,” he said.

Snowden’s revelations prompted members of the European parliament’s civil liberties committee to launch an inquiry into the National Security Agency’s (NSA) indiscriminate bulk collection of data.

The committee roundly condemned the NSA and affiliated European intelligence agencies in a non-binding resolution earlier last month but stopped short of calling upon member states to grant Snowden protection from prosecution and extradition to the US.

Both the centre-right EPP and centre-left S&D blocked the protection measures.

British centre-left Claude Moraes, who steered the parliament’s NSA inquiry, told reporters in Brussels at the time that it is up to member states, not EU institutions, to grant or withhold consular protection.

But German Green MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht, who tabled the amendment, said the centre-right and centre-left groups have misunderstood the text and are spreading false information.

“There are two obvious misunderstandings spread by socialists and conservatives, which is that we would ask the EU to grant something to Edward Snowden, which is not true,” he told this website.

The second fallacy, according to Albrecht, is that the parliament is calling to give him asylum.

“It [amendment] is only calling on the member states to give Edward Snowden protection from prosecution on the issue into which he was a whistleblower,” he said.

The Americans are said to have exerted some pressure on the MEPs to scrap the amendment.

“There was a clear mentioning of diplomatic sanctions already in the air if the European Parliament would call with this amendment Edward Snowden protection,” said Albrecht.

He said the Americans threatened to cancel US President Barack Obama’s visit to Brussels at the end of month.

But Albrecht is set to re-table the amendment anyway when the resolution comes up for a plenary vote on Wednesday.

“Basically it is the last option we have in Europe,” he noted.

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