Julian Assange didn't have much to say about the status of NSA leaker Edward Snowden's asylum requests in his interview on “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” Sunday. But the WikiLeaks founder had plenty to say about the U.S. government's justification for its spy program, and the American media's willingness to lap it up.
"We have secret interpretations of the law," Assange said from the Ecuadoran embassy in London, where he has been living for over a year. "What does the law mean if there are secret interpretations in secret courts?"
Following Snowden's leak of the NSA's surveillance operations, President Barack Obama defended the programs, saying Congress was aware of their existence.
"The programs are secret in the sense that they are classified. They are not secret, in that every member of Congress has been briefed," Obama said. "These are programs that have been authored by large bipartisan majorities repeatedly since 2006.
"I don't welcome leaks," the president added. "There's a reason these programs are classified."
On Sunday, Assange called Snowden "a hero."
"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," Assange said.
WikiLeaks has reportedly been assisting Snowden since he revealed himself as the NSA leaker. He was last reported to be in a Moscow airport and seeking asylum in Ecuador.
"The situation now with Edward Snowden is very sensitive one," Assange said. "It's a matter of international diplomatic negotiations. So, there's little that I can productively say about what is happening directly.
"Our legal people have been in contact with Mr. Snowden," he continued. "I can't say anything about the present situation.
"I have personal sympathy for Mr. Snowden," he added. "We did what we could and we'll continue to do what we can to try and help him through."
More from ABC's transcript:
Asylum is a right that we all have. It's an international right. The United States has been founded largely on accepting political refugees from other countries and has prospered by it. Mr. Snowden has that right. Ideally he should be able to return to the United States. Unfortunately, that's not the world that we live in and hopefully another country will give him the justice that he deserves.
Ecuador president Rafael Correa said he would welcome Snowden, but that his fate is in the hands of Russia.
"It's up to the Russian authorities if he can leave the Moscow airport for an Ecuadoran embassy," Correa told Reuters on Sunday. If Snowden makes it to Ecuador, Correa said, "he will be treated just like any other citizen even though he does not have a passport. We are clear that this is a special situation."
Meanwhile, officials in Europe expressed concern over a report by Germany's Der Spiegel magazine claiming the NSA had spied on the European Union's offices, too.
"I am deeply worried and shocked about the allegations," European Parliament President Martin Schulz said in a statement. "If the allegations prove to be true, it would be an extremely serious matter which will have a severe impact on EU-US relations. On behalf of the European Parliament, I demand full clarification and require further information speedily from the U.S. authorities with regard to these allegations."