By Laura Smith-Spark, London (CNN) — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange urged the world Saturday to “stand with” Edward Snowden, the man who admitted leaking top-secret details about U.S. surveillance programs, according to the text of a speech posted on Twitter.
As he appealed for a “brave country” to step forward and offer Snowden asylum, Assange also accused U.S. President Barack Obama of betraying a generation of “young, technically minded people.”
Assange was scheduled to speak from the balcony of the Ecuadorian Embassy in London on Saturday, but the appearance was postponed at short notice “due to a security situation,” WikiLeaks said on Twitter.
Wednesday marked a year since Assange sought refuge in the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over allegations that he raped one woman and sexually molested another.
Assange has repeatedly said the allegations in Sweden are politically motivated and tied to the work of his website. Ecuador’s government granted him asylum in August, but British authorities have said they will arrest him if he leaves the premises.
As a result of his decision to seek refuge in the embassy, “I have been able to work in relative safety from a U.S. espionage investigation,” said Assange, according to the text of the speech.
“But today, Edward Snowden’s ordeal is just beginning.”
Assange’s words came hours after Snowden was charged by U.S. federal prosecutors with espionage and theft of government property, according to a criminal complaint unsealed in U.S. District Court in Virginia on Friday.
Snowden, 30, has admitted in interviews that he was the source behind the leak of classified documents about the NSA’s surveillance programs. Those leaks were the basis of reports this month in Britain’s Guardian newspaper and The Washington Post.
He is believed to be in hiding in Hong Kong. The United States has asked authorities there to detain the former National Security Agency contract analyst on a provisional arrest warrant, The Washington Post reported, citing unnamed U.S. officials.
Assange, in his published speech, said the espionage charge had come “like clockwork,” making Snowden the eighth “leaker” to be charged with that count by the Obama administration.
“Two dangerous runaway processes have taken root in the last decade, with fatal consequences for democracy,” he said.
“Government secrecy has been expanding on a terrific scale. Simultaneously, human privacy has been secretly eradicated … The U.S. government is spying on each and every one of us, but it is Edward Snowden who is charged with espionage for tipping us off.”
Also among the eight “leakers” is WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning, Assange said. Manning is being court-martialed on charges he aided U.S. enemies by leaking documents he obtained as an Army intelligence analyst.
He named the others as Barrett Brown, Jeremy Hammond, Aaron Swartz, Gottfrid Svartholm and Jacob Appelbaum.
Assange suggested Obama was the real “traitor” for his failure to live up to his promises of hope, change and transparency in government. And he warned that the U.S. government will lose the battle if it tries to take on the tech-savvy people now calling its actions into question.
“Edward Snowden is one of us. Bradley Manning is one of us. They are young, technically minded people from the generation that Barack Obama betrayed. They are the generation that grew up on the Internet, and were shaped by it,” he said.
“The U.S. government is always going to need intelligence analysts and systems administrators, and they are going to have to hire them from this generation and the ones that follow it.
“One day, they will run the CIA and the FBI. This isn’t a phenomenon that is going away.”
Assange added that charging Snowden “is intended to intimidate any country that might be considering standing up for his rights” and appealed for efforts to find asylum for him to be intensified.
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