WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said on a conference call with reporters this morning that NSA leaker Edward Snowden left Russia for Ecuador Sunday, hoping to gain asylum in the country whose London Embassy is currently giving shelter to Assange. Snowden sought legal and logistical help from Wikileaks after it became clear he would have to leave Honk Kong, applying for asylum in both Ecuador and Iceland.
The WikiLeaks founder said Snowden is “safe and healthy,” but would not reveal his location, saying only that the leaker left Hong Kong on refugee travel documents issued by the Ecuadorian government after the U.S. revoked his passport. WikiLeaks paid for his travel.
Snowden was expected to make the move, but slipped past reporters who expected him on a flight from Moscow to Havana, Cuba, which may have been a ruse intended to evade the media or American intelligence agencies.
Assange also took the opportunity to defend Snowden and rail against the “bellicose” U.S. government. “Snowden is not a traitor, he is not a spy he is a whistleblower who told the public the important truth,” he said.
Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa relishes being a thorn in the side of the American government, but as has been repeatedly noted, the country is hardly a paragon of free speech and human rights. For instance, this month, the country’s parliament passed a law that Human Rights Watch says “includes overly broad language that will limit the free expression of journalists and media outlets.”