WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange continues to help fellow leaker Edward Snowden try to find a safe place to land and says that the U.S. government's pursuit of the leaker and others like him threatens the future of national security journalism.
Snowden, who has been charged by the U.S. government with violating the Espionage Act for leaking NSA information, has left Hong Kong and is on his way to Ecuador by way of Moscow.
WikiLeaks attorneys are helping him. On a conference call with reporters, Assange, who himself is currently in exile at the Ecuadorian embassy in London, would not say where Snowden is but that he is safe. He denied a report that Snowden was being debriefed by Russian officials.
Assange continues to argue that the Obama Administration is unfairly pursuing Snowden as part of a campaign to criminalize journalist's sources when they leak info about national security issues.
On that same conference call, WikiLeaks attorney Michael Ratner said that asylum would trump U.S. extradition. He also said that focusing on whistleblower Snowden was a way for the government to distract from the real issue -- the "massive" surveillance of citizens and the violation of their rights to privacy and protection from unreasonable searches.
Secretary of State John Kerry has reportedly called Snowden a traitor. Assange said Kerry was just wrong. "Edward Snowden is not a traitor. He is not a spy," said Assange. "He is a whistleblower who has told the public an important truth."
"The Obama administration hopes to erect a new interpretation of law which defines journalistic sources as spies," said Assange. "If that precedent is permitted, it will result in the complete destruction of national security journalism in the U.S.," Assange said. He pointed out that some journalists are already talking about how their sources are too scared to reveal government misconduct in the national security sphere.
While not getting into specifics, in a speech last week, AP president Gary Pruitt said last week that the U.S. government's secret seizure of AP phone records has thrown a scare into some of the iconic news outlet's sources, as well as those of other journalists.