Could France Give Edward Snowden Asylum because NSA Spied on Them?

Both the French media and a French politician have suggested granting Edward Snowden asylum in the wake of WikiLeaks revelations about NSA spying.

When I posted about the WikiLeaks report that the NSA spied on French presidents, I didn’t think the rage of the French would mean too much.

But now I’m wondering.

According to the Intercept,

French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira thinks National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange might be allowed to settle in France.

If France decides to offer them asylum, she would “absolutely not be surprised,” she told French news channel BFMTV on Thursday (translated from the French). She said it would be a “symbolic gesture.”

Taubira was asked about the NSA’s sweeping surveillance of three French presidents, disclosed by WikiLeaks this week, and called it an “unspeakable practice.”

Matt Purple at Rare.Us gives us some context for this story.

First, a raft of fine print. Taubira can’t offer asylum on her own. She’s known as a renegade with a penchant for annoying right-wingers. She’s taking her lead from a French newspaper, which had suggested asylum on Thursday. Hollande’s response has been much more measured. A Wikileaks spokesman said the chance of France making good on Taubira’s rhetoric is small.

Nevertheless, Taubira is no grenade-lobbing backbencher—she’s the equivalent of America’s attorney general—and her comments are unprecedented. When Snowden was first seeking asylum back in 2013, he was denied by at least 12 nations, including France. “Given the legal analysis and the situation of the interested party, France will not agree,” said the French interior ministry in a statement. To have a senior government official reneging shows just how blindsided many French feel over NSA spying.

If this gets serious consideration, then it will show a big change in the foreign influence wielded by the State Department. When Snowden was first trying to find asylum, he was turned down by many nations out of respect for the United States government. If he is being considered for asylum now, then that respect is dwindling. The NSA is creating hostility in places where there was formerly peace and friendship.