By https://www.youtube.com/user/TheWikiLeaksChannel [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
October 29, 2015; New York Times

A nonbinding resolution to recognize Edward J. Snowden as a “whistleblower and international human rights defender” and therefore protect him from prosecution was passed by the European Parliament yesterday. Although the resolution carries no legal force for the 28 countries in the EU, it is nonetheless a significant statement.

The close vote—285 to 281—may be more a reflection of countries being unwilling to get into a confrontation the United States, where Snowden is a “wanted” fugitive, than it is a lack of support for the resolution, which calls on European Union members to “drop any criminal charges against Edward Snowden, grant him protection and consequently prevent extradition or rendition by third parties.” The White House immediately condemned the resolution—hardly a surprise, as it has discouraged even symbolic resolutions of support for Mr. Snowden.

“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.”

Katie Collins, writing for CNET, points out that “any European country that did offer Snowden asylum would be breaking its extradition treaty with the U.S. Not honoring such treaties is practically unheard of and could result in major tensions. That doesn’t make asylum in a European country impossible, though, and rights organization Access Group and Snowden’s lawyers are calling on EU countries to take the resolution seriously.”

Jan Philipp Albrecht, a German lawmaker with the Greens political bloc, said the resolution “is asking or demanding the member states’ governments to end all the charges and to prevent any extradition to a third party. That’s a very clear call and that can’t be just ignored by the governments.”

Mr. Albrecht also said the closeness of the vote reflected the divide between a progressive, pro-civil-liberties wing of the Parliament and a centrist, conservative wing.—Ruth McCambridge