EP Committee Approves Snowden Hearing
An European Parliament's committee has approved plans for a hearing of the former employee of the US National Security Agency (NSA) and whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Snowden's revelations that the US has been spying on European Union leaders sparked strong criticism of Washington. According to secret files leaked to the media by him, the US government conducts far-reaching global surveillance of internet and telephone traffic.
The US surveillance allegedly included the NSA tapping the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and eavesdropping on communications in EU institutions.
The parliamentary Civil Liberties Committee Thursday vote was passed by 36 votes in favor, two against and one abstention. No date has been fixed yet.
Last month the MEPs' Committee held hearings on the US spying revelations.
The European Parliament is to vote on the recommendation of the Committee in February, and the hearing can be held in April, if the decision is confirmed in plenary hall.
The idea of the hearing splits MEPs in their opinion. The right-wing European People's Party are in favor of a hearing in principle, but asked MEPs be careful in determining the time when it will take place. The EU and the US are negotiating a free trade agreement, which must be sealed by the end of this year.
There is speculation that Snowden could speak to the MEPs via video link in late January. But he has not yet responded to the invitation.
He was granted temporary asylum in Moscow in August last year, having fled the US in May.
British Conservative MEPs are strongly opposed to the hearing.
On Wednesday, the European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenships, Viviane Reding, publicly thanked Snowden for his revelations, but did not give a direct answer to the question whether the EU will provide protection for him.
The BBC reminds that in a Christmas message broadcast on UK Channel 4 TV - billed as an alternative to the Queen's annual speech - Snowden said modern surveillance was more powerful than in George Orwell's nightmarish "Big Brother" state, in the novel 1984.
He said he just wanted "the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed".
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