Julian Assange told ABC's "This Week" that Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, had the right to ask for asylum from any country because he was in hot water with the United States for purely political reasons.
"I think there are several countries where it is politically possible for Mr. Snowden to receive asylum, and many countries, of course, where he's legally entitled to that kind of protection," Assange said in a video interview from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he has been holed up to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sexual-assault charges.
Snowden himself is reportedly holed up in a hotel at the Moscow airport trying to find asylum somewhere.
Assange said the espionage indictment against Snowden was a sham that had been handed down by a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va., a Washington suburb he characterized as a virtual company town for the NSA, CIA and other national security organizations.
"No one is alleging that any of his acts are anything other than political," Assange contended. "He has acted in a manner to draw attention to a very serious problem in the United States where, without the will of Congress, without the will of the American population, we now have a state within a state, we have the transnational surveillance apparatus."
Jesselyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project, agreed with Assange that the intelligence community's surveillance was the real issue Americans should be focused on. "I think Snowden's outlook is bleak here, and instead of focusing on Snowden and shooting the messenger, we should really focus on the crimes of the NSA," she said. "Whatever laws Snowden may or may not have broken, they are infinitesimally small compared to the two major surveillance laws and the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution that the NSA's violated."
Radack argued the legal protections in the Patriot Act were flimsy and accused the judges in the Foreign Surveillance Court of rubber-stamping whatever requests for eavesdropping come before them, in part because they only hear the government's evidence when considering a request.
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