Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks frontman, has warned the US government that no matter what it does to try and apprehend Edward Snowden, the revelations he has unearthed on secret digital surveillance of US citizens will see the light of day.
Assange stated pointedly that steps had been taken to foil any US attempt to block publication.
“There is no stopping the publishing process at this stage,” he said.
Speaking to the US TV show This Week on ABC from the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where he is fighting extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault allegations, Assange would not go into details, but he added: “Great care has been taken to make sure Mr Snowden cannot be pressured by any state to stop the publishing process.”
Snowden is believed to be holed up in the transit area of a Moscow airport, as he seeks asylum in another country, possibly Ecuador. The former contractor for the National Security Agency has been charged under the 1917 Espionage Act, having leaked classified information on the US government’s digital surveillance of telephone records, e-mails and Internet communications to the Guardian and the Washington Post.
WikiLeaks has been assisting Snowden in his attempt to avoid capture, providing the 30-year-old with travel expenses and legal counsel, and sending advisers to accompany him on his journey from Hong Kong to Moscow last month.
Assange said he had offered to help because “we’ve had some experience in the past with dealing with attacks from the US, with asylum and so on, and I have some personal sympathy for Mr Snowden.”
However, WikiLeaks has come under criticism from Snowden’s father, Lonnie Snowden, who through his lawyer has accused the anti-secrecy organization of using his son to raise money for itself and to prevent Edward Snowden “from doing the right thing” by returning to the US to face charges.
Assange told This Week that he had contacted the lawyer to try to “put some of his concerns to rest.”
Snowden’s predicament, trapped in a legal no-man’s-land between countries, shows no sign of any early resolution.
The US government has revoked his passport, making it almost impossible for him to travel on from Russia to any possible final destination. Countries such as Iceland, which Snowden has mentioned as a desired potential safe haven, have made it clear that he has to be on their soil before he can claim asylum, creating a legal catch-22.
Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa said on Sunday that Snowden was “in the care of the Russian authorities” and would not be able to leave Moscow’s international airport without his US passport.
In a comment that indicated the cautious response of Ecuador to the case, Correa reprimanded Ecuador’s consul for issuing Snowden with a letter of safe passage that he is believed to have used to travel to Russia. To have done that without consulting the central Ecuadoran government was a “serious error,” Correa said.
In comments that will not encourage Snowden or his supporters, the Ecuadoran president added that if Snowden had broken US laws he would have to assume responsibility, adding that the case was “not in Ecuador’s hands.”