(LONDON) — Appearing on ABC’s This Week via satellite from London, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange called NSA leaker Edward Snowden “a hero.”
“He is a hero, he has told people of the world and the United States that there is mass unlawful interception of their communications, far beyond anything that happened under Nixon,” Assange said.
In Assange’s view, the central conflict driving the Snowden saga is a clash between democracy and national security. Assange suggested that Congress was being held hostage by what dirt had been dug up, and that it should stand up to the intelligence community and rein it in.
Wikileaks has been helping to advise Snowden while he’s on the run, though Assange would not provide any further details. Snowden is currently believed to be in a Moscow airport waiting to hear if a country will grant him extradition against the wishes of the United States government. Assange says that Snowden should be granted asylum.
“Asylum is a right that we all have, it’s an international right,” Assange said. “The United States has been founded largely on accepting political refugees from other countries and has prospered by it. Mr. Snowden has that right.”
Applauding Snowden’s actions, the Wikileaks founder criticized the government’s attempts to strong-arm countries into denying him asylum and calling its treatment of him “a disgrace.”
“The United States canceled his passport. Joseph Biden, the day before yesterday, personally called [Ecuadorian] President Correa trying to pressure him, that’s not acceptable,” Assange said.
“To take someone’s principal component of citizenship, their passport, away from them is a disgrace,” he continued. “Mr. Snowden hasn’t been convicted of anything; there are no international warrants out for his arrest.”
Assange said that Snowden would ideally be able to return to the United States and receive only a light punishment, if any, for leaking, though he admitted that was unrealistic.
“Unfortunately that’s not the world that we live in,” he said. “Hopefully another country will give him the justice that he deserves.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
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