WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange says he advised US National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden to seek asylum in Russia instead of Latin America.
Snowden “preferred Latin America, but my advice was that he should take asylum in Russia,” Assange said in an interview with British daily newspaper The Times on Saturday, adding that the NSA whistleblower “had a significant risk of being kidnapped from Latin America on CIA orders…kidnapped and possibly killed.”
Assange also stated that he had coordinated Snowden’s controversial travel to Moscow, stressing that the ex-NSA agent “was well aware of the spin that would be put on it if he took asylum in Russia,” one of Washington’s arch rivals.
Elsewhere in his remarks, the WikiLeaks co-founder claimed that he had assigned one of his senior staff members to help Snowden at the time he decided to disclose the NSA’s confidential documents in Hong Kong in 2013.
Snowden began leaking classified intelligence documents after leaving his job at an NSA facility and going to Hong Kong in 2013. He revealed that the NSA had been collecting the phone records of millions of Americans and foreign nationals as well as political leaders around the world.
On June 23, 2013, Snowden flew to the Russian capital in an attempt to seek asylum in the European country two days after the US Department of Justice accused him of violating the country’s Espionage Act. Moscow granted him a three-year residence permit starting from August 1, 2014.
Assange has also been under investigation in the US since his website WikiLeaks released several US military and diplomatic documents in 2010.
Assange has been in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012 and has secured political asylum from the South American country after he lost a legal battle against extradition to Sweden where he faces allegations of sexual assault.
It is believed that Assange’s extradition is a cover for sending him to the US, where he is wanted over the release of thousands of classified US documents on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on his whistleblower website.