Julian Assange says Edward Snowden is “healthy and safe” hours after the surveillance whistleblower did not turn up for a flight he was expected to catch to Cuba.
Speaking from the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where Mr Assange has been living for the past year, the WikiLeaks founder said Mr Snowden had been in touch with his legal team.
Mr Assange said the treatment of Mr Snowden and Bradley Manning, the soldier on trial in the US for leaking military secrets, is a “pattern of conduct”.
“Today while Edward Snowden is seeking asylum, the young soldier Bradley Manning is on trial for telling us the truth,” Mr Assange said. “Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning are unfortunately not anonomlies.
“Their prosecution is part of a pattern of conduct. a part of the Obama administration’s war on whistelblowers.”
The United States is currently embroiled in a global game of cat and mouse, as Mr Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, seeks political asylum.
Having fled to Hong Kong, Mr Snowden is now understood to be in Russia, and is seeking asylum in Ecuador – where Mr Assange is also seeking refuge.
He was expected to board a flight to Cuba on Monday, Russian news agencies said, but there was no sign of him on the plane. A flight attendant said Snowden was not on the plane and the seat he had been expected to occupy was taken by another passenger.
On Monday the United States expressed disappointment at the Hong Kong authorities for not arresting Mr Snowden, said it expects Russia to “look at the options available” over extradition, and warned other Western nations to help the US if Mr Snowden enters their countries.
Mr Snowden fled to Hong Kong and then went public with his claims about internet and telephone surveillance. He said he fled for Hong Kong because he believed it has a strong culture of protecting freedom of speech.
A US official said on Monday that the decision by Hong Kong authorities not to arrest Mr Snowden was “disappointing”.
Why should the United States expect restraint and understanding from Russia? Alexei Pushkov
“The US is disappointed and disagrees with the determination by Hong Kong authorities not to honor the US request for the arrest of the fugitive,” an official said.
The official added that, in discussions the US had with Hong Kong on Friday, no issue had been raised over the validity of the US’s arrest request.
“In light of this we find the decision particularly worrying,” the official said.
On Sunday Mr Snowden is understood to have arrived in Moscow, and Russian news agencies reported he is booked onto a flight from Moscow to Cuba on Monday.
The White House’s National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the US was “expecting” the Russian government to look at options to extradite Mr Snowden, given the recent cooperation between the two countries over the Boston Marathon bombings, and a shared history of international law enforcement.
The US is advising these governments that Snowden is wanted on felony charges, and as such should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel. US official
“We expect the Russian government to look at all options available to expel Mr. Snowden back to the US to face justice for the crimes with which he is charged,” she said.
However, Russia has indicated that the US should not be expecting its help. Alexei Pushkov, head of the foreign affairs committee in the lower house of parliament, said: “Ties are in a rather complicated phase and when ties are in such a phase, when one country undertakes hostile action against another, why should the United States expect restraint and understanding from Russia?”
Mr Snowden is understood to have requested poltiical asylum from Ecuador. Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said that the government of Ecuador was “analysing” the request.
However, the US has warned countries in the Western hemisphere not to let Mr Snowden go anywhere except back to the US.
“The US is advising these governments that Snowden is wanted on felony charges, and as such should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel, other than is necessary to return him to the United States,” an official said in a written statement.
A senior administration official said Snowden’s claim that he leaked details of the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance programs to protect democracy and individual rights is “belied by the protectors he has potentially chosen: China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador.”
“His failure to criticize these regimes suggests that his true motive throughout has been to injure the national security of the US, not to advance internet freedom and free speech,” the official said.
US authorities have charged Snowden with theft of federal government property, unauthorised communication of national defence information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence to an unauthorised person.