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Julian Assange says WikiLeaks helping Snowden gain asylum

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks to the media inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London June 14, 2013.
Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks to the media inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London June 14, 2013.Anthony Devlin / Pool / Reuters

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Wednesday said members of his anti-secrecy website have been in contact with lawyers of alleged National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and are helping him seek asylum in Iceland.

Speaking to reporters during a conference call on the one-year anniversary of his own asylum in the Ecuadoran embassy in London, Assange said his group has a “common cause” with Snowden, but would not comment on whether he personally has spoken with supposed whistle-blower.

Assange did say, “We are in touch with Mr. Snowden’s legal team and have been, are involved, in the process of brokering his asylum in Iceland.”  

Snowden leaked details about far-reaching Internet and phone surveillance programs to The Guardian and The Washington Post earlier this month. He revealed his identity while in Hong Kong, where it is believed he is still hiding.

Assange believes that if Snowden is returned to the U.S., he will likely face a similar fate to that of Bradley Manning, who handed over thousands of military documents and sensitive government communications that were posted on Wikileaks. Manning is currently facing trial for aiding the enemy and violating the Espionage Act.

"Will Edward Snowden be in the same position that Bradley Manning is in ... and is the United States the type of country from which journalists must seek asylum in relation to their work?" Assange asked.

Assange has taken up residence in London's Ecuadorian embassy to avoid being extradited to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning on sexual assault allegations. He has denied the allegations, but fears the U.K. or Sweden could send him to the United States where a grand jury investigation is reviewing WikiLeaks' roll in publishing the documents Manning provided them.

Also on the call with Assange were well-known leakers Daniel Ellsberg, who released the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times in 1971, and Thomas Drake, who faced felony charges for leaking the Baltimore Sun information showing alleged mismanagement at the NSA in 2005.

Ellsberg, who is now widely seen as courageous for making public the papers that revealed secret military action in Vietnam, said he belongs in the same category as Snowden and Manning.

“We acted in the same spirit and I feel a great affinity for all of them,” he said.