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Assange in touch with 'hero' whistleblower

11 June 2013, 09:30

Sydney - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Tuesday called whistleblower Edward Snowden "a hero" and says he has been in indirect contact with the ex-CIA employee who exposed a vast US surveillance programme.

Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for nearly a year after claiming asylum, urged nations around the world to offer a similar safe haven to the 29-year-old.

"Edward Snowden is a hero who has informed the public about one of the most serious events of the decade which was the creeping formulation of a mass surveillance state," the Australian told Sky News.

Assange said he and other journalists and civil libertarians had been complaining about secret internet spying for a long time, "so it is very pleasing to see such clear and concrete proof presented to the public".

Snowden, a former CIA technical assistant, is believed to be holed up in Hong Kong after disclosing his identity in a video interview from the southern Chinese city posted on the website of The Guardian newspaper on Sunday.

He chose Hong Kong as a refuge because of its "strong tradition of free speech" but US lawmakers have demanded his immediate extradition.


Former computer hacker Assange said Snowden was in a "very, very serious position" and urged countries to come forward with offers of asylum.

"What other countries need to do is line up to give support to him. Everyone should go to their local politicians and press and demand that they step forward and offer Mr Snowden asylum in their country," he said.

"And it will be very telling to see which countries genuinely protect human rights, genuinely protect privacy of the public ... which countries will do that and which are scared of the United States."

In a separate interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Assange, who rose to fame after WikiLeaks released thousands of secret military logs from Iraq and Afghanistan and classified US State Department cables, said he had been in touch with Snowden.

"We have had indirect communication with his people," he said of Snowden.

"I don't think it's appropriate at this time that I go into further details."

The US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has described Snowden's leaks as gravely damaging to US security and referred the matter to the Justice Department, which has launched an investigation.

Under the Prism programme he revealed, the US National Security Agency can issue directives to internet firms like Google or Facebook to gain access to e-mails, online chats, pictures, files, videos and more, uploaded by foreign users.



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