WikiLeaks Won't Say Where Snowden Is

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
June 24 2013 1:13 PM

Did Edward Snowden Hand Over His Laptops to the Guardian or Another Media Outlet?

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaks to the media inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on June 14, 2013, ahead of the first anniversary of his arrival there on June 19, 2012.

Photo by Anthony Devlin/AFP/Getty Images

In a conference call with reporters on Monday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange stayed mostly quiet about Edward Snowden's travel plans. But while Assange refused to comment on Snowden's whereabouts ("he is in a safe place and his spirits are high"), he still managed to make news by implying that the NSA leaker may have turned over the four laptops he left Hawaii with to one or more media outlets. According to the Guardian, those laptops may contain access to "some of the US government’s most highly-classified secrets."

When an ABC News reporter asked if Snowden has maintained custody of the laptops, Assange said, "Mr. Snowden's material has been secured by journalistic organizations prior to travel." Assuming he isn't bluffing, Assange could have been referring to the Guardian—which published Snowden's original bombshell, and has been in contact with him in the weeks that followed—or the Washington Post, the South China Morning Post or another as-of-yet unknown outlet.

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Assange, who has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for the past year, also told reporters that he sympathizes personally with Snowden's situation. WikiLeaks has helped fund Snowden's air travel and legal counsel, including helping him seek political asylum in Ecuador and other unnamed countries.

Repeatedly referring to the United States making "bellicose threats" against Snowden, Assange also blasted President Obama's response to the leaks, and compared Snowden to incarcerated former U.S. soldier Bradley Manning.

"In the Obama administration's attempt to crush these young whistle-blowers with espionage charges, the U.S. government is taking on a generation, a young generation of people who find the mass violation of the rights of privacy and open process unacceptable," Assange said. "In taking on the generation, the Obama administration can only lose."

Assange also told reporters he expects more information about other countries' participation in the NSA surveillance program to come out, and disputed claims that Snowden has interacted with Chinese officials.

When asked how Snowden managed to escape from Hong Kong without being extradited, Assange said, "That is a fascinating story that I'm sure one day will be told, but today is not the day."

This post has been updated with additional information.

Emma Roller is a Slate editorial assistant. Follow her on Twitter.