Wikileaks founder Julian Assange said NSA leaker Edward Snowden is safe and in touch with the Wikileaks legal team during a Monday morning conference call.
While Assange would not confirm whether Snowden is still in Russia, he did say that both Snowden and Sarah Harrison, the Wikileaks representative traveling with him, “are healthy and safe.”
“I cannot give further information as to their whereabouts and present circumstances except to say the matter is in hand,” Assange added, declining to specify where Snowden is headed. Wikileaks is providing legal counsel and travel funds.
The former NSA contractor spent the weekend on the run, having left Hong Kong on Sunday with the help of Wikileaks. The organization said Sunday that Snowden was headed to Ecuador.
Assange said during the call that the Ecuadorian government has supplied Snowden with a “refugee document of passage,” which enabled him to leave Hong Kong.
In an interview with NBC News, Secretary of State John Kerry reiterated the United States’ request that Snowden, who was formally charged with espionage Friday, be returned to the U.S.
“He is an individual indicted on three felony counts and that he is wanted by the legal process of the United States,” Kerry said.
“He’s a traitor certainly to the oath he took, to the promise he took to his fellow employees, to the place that he was employed at, to the duty that he took on, freely, by his own choice,” Kerry said.
Assange challenged that statement, claiming Snowden is neither a traitor nor a spy, but “a whistle-blower who has told the public an important truth.”
Asked by NBC Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell why Snowden sought asylum in Hong Kong rather than using channels available in Washington, such as Congress and the Attorney General, Assange replied, “It is clear that Mr. Snowden is a whistle-blower by all his actions…Contrary to the western opinions that he is a spy for China, clearly that is not the case.”
Mitchell then asked if Snowden could come forward and make his case as a whistle-blower elsewhere.
“Mr. Snowden has talked about Thomas Drake, another national security whistle blower who used every internal mechanism and was still tried with espionage. Another NSA whistleblower has said that internal NSA rules serve to prosecute whistle blowers before they are effective,” Assange said.