If American whistleblower Edward Snowden were French, he would have had a good chance of remaining a free man — despite having leaked thousands of classified intelligence documents.
Whereas both Democratic and Republican U.S. lawmakers have repeatedly emphasized that Snowden and other similar whistleblowers should face punishment, French members of parliament took the opposite stance Thursday. The French National Assembly created an amendment that will legalize the leak of information by intelligence employees if they want to expose an abuse of power by their own authorities.
“The Snowden case has demonstrated the need to create conditions so that agents can denounce abuses by the intelligence services,” Jean-Jacques Urvoas, the amendment’s author, was quoted as saying by French radio station France Inter.
According to Urvoas, the amendment is supposed to provide “legal protection to an agent of the intelligence services who would denounce illegal intelligence gathering or abusive supervision.”
To prevent the uncontrolled leaking of sensitive information, the French amendment could create a new authority to examine leaked documents. Instead of having to persecute the whistleblower, officials would be empowered to investigate abuses of power of the French state — but only if a governmental commission has agreed to declassify the sensitive documents. If intelligence officers follow this procedure, they may not “be punished or subjected to discrimination,” according to the amendment. Whistleblowers who avoid the new authority and send their information directly to the media would still commit an illegal act.