Julian Assange said on Monday that Edward Snowden is "safe and healthy" and in high spirits, but refused to reveal further details about the National Security Agency leaker's current location.
Assange's conference call with reporters offered the clearest indication yet that Snowden's fate is bound up with the assistance he receives from WikiLeaks, the noted transparency organization that came to its greatest fame three years ago when it released a massive cache of documents from Army Pfc. Bradley Manning.
Assange said that WikiLeaks paid for Snowden's flight from Hong Kong to Russia on Sunday and that "there was no advanced communication with Russian officials prior to his departure from Hong Kong."
Claims that Snowden has been debriefed by Russian intelligence agencies are false, Assange said.
In general, Assange struck a mysterious tone that left open many questions about when Snowden and WikiLeaks first made contact and what Snowden's status might be now.
"In relation to the travel out of Hong Kong, that is a fascinating story that I'm sure will one day be told -- but today is not the day," Assange said.
According to WikiLeaks, Snowden has applied for asylum in both Iceland and Ecuador, and possibly other countries. Assange himself has been holed up for the past year in the London embassy of Ecuador, which has offered him asylum; he is wanted for questioning on allegations of sexual assault in Sweden and has said he also fears extradition to the U.S. in relation to the ongoing Manning case. Snowden appears to be attempting a somewhat similar maneuver to avoid U.S. prosecution, with stops along the way in Hong Kong, which is a part of China, and Russia. Assange said Snowden traveled from Hong Kong with a refugee document provided by the Ecuadorian government.
Asked if there was any disconnect between the human rights records of countries like China and Russia and the transparency for which Snowden has said he is fighting, Assange said no.
"I simply don't see the irony," Assange said. "Mr. Snowden has revealed information about mass, unlawful spying which has affected every single one of us. The U.S. administration has issued a series of bellicose, unilateral threats against him and against others who are attempting to support his rights. That is a very serious situation, and any country which assists in upholding his rights must be applauded for doing so."