Edward Snowden is “healthy and safe” and waiting to hear whether he’ll receive asylum in Ecuador, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange said on Monday.
In a phone call with reporters, Assange said Snowden's application for asylum was being “carefully considered” by the foreign minister of Ecuador. Assange added that Snowden had “possibly” submitted requests to other countries as well.
The Wikileaks organization, which first gained attention by publishing classified U.S. diplomatic cables, has aided Snowden's effort to gain asylum. Reports said Snowden has been escorted in his travels by Assange’s close adviser, Sarah Harrison.
The White House on Monday pressed Russian authorities to expel him or prevent him from leaving to a third country, but Moscow claims it has no legal standing to do so. The Obama administration has also asked Ecuador not to admit Snowden.
Ecuador previously gave Assange asylum at its London embassy to help him evade an extradition request from Sweden, where he is wanted on sexual assault charges in an unrelated matter.
Assange on Monday accused the U.S. of trying to “bully” other countries into detaining the 30-year-old former Booz Allen employee.
“Today we have seen a range of extreme bellicose statements from the U.S. administration attempting to bully Russia and other nations from facilitating Mr. Snowden’s asylum,” Assange said.
“Every person has the right to seek and receive political asylum … it is counterproductive and unacceptable for the Obama administration to try and interfere with those rights,” he added. “It reflects poorly on the U.S. administration and no self-respecting country would submit to such interference or bullying.”
WikiLeaks attorney Michael Ratner on Monday argued that Snowden was a whistle-blower being “persecuted for political opinion,” and said there was no arrest warrant and therefore no reason to treat him like an international fugitive. Ratner also argued that “asylum trumps extradition.”
“This morning the U.S. Secretary of State [John Kerry] called Edward Snowden a traitor,” Assange continued. “Edward Snowden is not a traitor. He is not a spy. He is a whistle-blower who has told the public an important truth.”
Assange blasted the Obama administration, saying public furor should be aimed at the NSA policies Snowden revealed, rather than the motives of the person who disclosed the information.
“The Obama administration was not given a mandate by the people of the United States to hack and spy upon the entire world, to breach the U.S. Constitution and the laws of other nations in the manner it has,” he said. “To now attempt to violate the international asylum law by calling for the rendition of Edward Snowden further demonstrates the breakdown of the rule of law by the Obama administration.”
Snowden’s critics say he’s lost his moral standing by reaching out to oppressive regimes with histories of human rights abuses in an attempt to avoid rendition to the U.S.
Media reports have tied Snowden to the governments in Russia, China, Ecuador, Cuba and Venezuela, and the U.S. government fears he could use the classified information he has as leverage in negotiations with foreign regimes.