EU Parliament votes to protect Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden has been living in Russia.

Story highlights

  • The vote, which was 285-281, has no legal force
  • Snowden calls it a "game-changer"
  • He's wanted in the United States on three felony counts, including violations of the U.S. Espionage Act

(CNN)The European Parliament voted Thursday in support of a resolution that calls on member states to protect Edward Snowden from extradition.

The vote, which has no legal force, was 285-281. The resolution urges nations to drop criminal charges and "consequently prevent extradition or rendition by third parties, in recognition of his status as whistle-blower and international human rights defender."
Snowden, a former contractor at the U.S. National Security Agency, leaked documents about top secret mass surveillance programs. He fled the United States in 2013 and spent more than a month living in Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport before being granted asylum.
    On Twitter, Snowden called Thursday's vote a "game-changer."
    "This is not a blow against the US Government, but an open hand extended by friends. It is a chance to move forward," he wrote.
    The Justice Department has said Snowden would face criminal prosecution if he returns to the United States. He's been charged with three felony counts, including violations of the U.S. Espionage Act.
    Snowden told the BBC this month that he has offered "many times" to go to prison in the United States as part of a deal to return from exile in Russia, but is still waiting for an answer from the American government.
    In response to Thursday's vote, U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. policy on Snowden has not changed.
    "He needs to come back to the United States and face the due process and the judicial process here in the United States. That's been our position from the beginning. It's our belief that the man put U.S. national security in great danger and he needs to be held account to that," Kirby said.