WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Sunday that Edward Snowden — the former National Security Agency and CIA contractor still holed up in a Moscow airport after leaking classified national security information to media outlets — has more secrets to reveal, and that there is nothing the U.S. government can do to stop him.
“Look, there is no stopping the publishing process at this stage. Great care has been taken to make sure that Mr. Snowden can’t be pressured by any state to stop the publication process,” Mr. Assange said during an interview on ABC’s “This Week.”
The latest revelations attributed to Mr. Snowden were reported by the German outlet Der Spiegel, which claims leaked documents show the U.S. spied on European Union officials in Washington, New York and Brussels.
Reaction was swift from European allies, who said the allegations could scuttle ongoing negotiations on a proposed major trans-Atlantic trade treaty.
“Partners do not spy on each other,” said EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding. European Parliament President Martin Schulz said he was “deeply worried and shocked about the allegations of U.S. authorities spying on EU offices.”
Mr. Snowden, facing espionage and other charges in the U.S., continues to seek asylum from other nations such as Ecuador. Mr. Assange acknowledged Sunday that WikiLeaks, which gained notoriety after revealing highly classified documents, private State Department cables and other information, is in touch with Mr. Snowden and working to ensure the secret material in his possession eventually comes to light.
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Mr. Snowden remains in hiding and out of public view, but WikiLeaks has become his chief public defender and is capitalizing on increased global skepticism swirling around U.S. surveillance and data-collection efforts.
“He is a hero,” Mr. Assange said of Mr. Snowden. “He has told the people of the world and the United States that there is mass unlawful interception of their communications, far beyond anything that happened under Nixon. Obama can’t just turn around like Nixon did and say, ‘It’s OK if the president does it.’”
But while Secretary of State John F. Kerry and others have suggested Mr. Snowden’s leaks could cost American lives, Mr. Obama indicated last week that he won’t go to great lengths to bring the fugitive back to the U.S. to face trial, dismissing the man responsible for one of the biggest national security breaches in American history as a “hacker.”
Congressional leaders seem to share that view and doubt Mr. Snowden has the information he claims.
“I don’t know that he has that much substance,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.
Mr. Snowden’s whereabouts and what information — if any — he has yet to reveal will remain a focus of the Obama administration for the foreseeable future. But he already has touched off a debate on how best the U.S. should balance national security with the privacy rights of Americans.
Mr. Obama has said he welcomes that debate and recently held his first meeting with the revived Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent panel charged with protecting Fourth Amendment rights from federal overreach in the name of national security.
Michael V. Hayden, former director of the NSA and CIA, said the European outrage was unwarranted and that leaders there “should look first and find out what their own governments are doing.”
But he said Mr. Obama needs to better communicate to Americans the extent of domestic spying.
“The more they know, the more comfortable they will feel. Frankly, I think we ought to be doing a bit more to explain what we’re doing,” he said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”