Wikileaks founder Julian Assange said Friday it is clear that President Obama would not have unveiled his new spying reforms had it not been for leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and whistleblowers before him.
The 42-year-old Australian told CNN it therefore doesn’t make any sense to talk about prosecuting Mr. Snowden without talking about charges against National Intelligence Director James Clapper, who last year told Congress that spying agencies did not “wittingly” collect mass troves of data on Americans.
As for the content Mr. Obama’s speech, Mr. Assange said he was not impressed.
“I think it’s embarrassing for a head of state to go on like that for 45 minutes and say almost nothing,” Mr. Assange told CNN.
He said he is not convinced that Mr. Obama’s reforms will shed more light on the secret court that authorizes the bulk collection of phone records and other data, and that the United States has become “an archipelago of coercion” in which tech companies are ordered to hand over electronic data to the NSA.
Mr. Assange is best known for publishing leaked U.S. military documents and diplomatic cables on WikiLeaks with the help of other journalists and inside sources. U.S. Private First Class Bradley Manning, also known as Chelsea Manning, pled guilty to providing cables to Mr. Assange.
Since June 2012, Mr. Assange has taken refuge at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning about a sexual assault case. However, he and his associates provided help to Mr. Snowden when he fled to Russia last year.
Mr. Assange said he personally faces prosecution by a federal attorney in Virginia, despite reports that the U.S. investigation into his activities had been dropped.
“Unfortunately, now it continues,” he said.