The two most high-profile, hiding-in-plain sight figures at Wikileaks now claim to be helping the high-profile, on-the-lam leaker Edward Snowden on his apparent quest to seek asylum in Iceland. But Glenn Greenwald, Snowden's defacto spokesperson, denies that Wikileaks is involved at all. Julian Assange, it appears, might just be trying to make leakers cool again.
On Tuesday, it seemed like his next move was getting clearer: Snowden had contacted the Icelandic government for save haven as he continues to evade investigators in the U.S., the U.K., and beyond — perhaps already on the move from being holed-up in Hong Kong. WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson had told Reuters that, via a middleman, he was helping Snowden arrange passage to Iceland. Today, Assange, the Wikileaks founder, told a conference call of reporters that the Wikileaks legal team is ready to rescue Snowden:
“We are in touch with Mr Snowden's legal team and have been, are involved, in the process of brokering his asylum in Iceland,” Assange said. “Our people in Iceland have been in contact with his legal team.”
Asked whether Snowden, who reportedly made his disclosures from Hong Kong but whose current location is unclear, could fly to Iceland without being stopped by the U.S. government or America’s allies, Assange replied: “All those issues are being looked at by the people involved.”
Last we checked in with Snowden — that is, the last time anyone, including Greenwald, actually knew where he was — the NSA leaker was somewhere in Hong Kong checking out of hotels, communicating through newspapers and online chats. But those last two public appearances didn't have locations attached to them, and we don't know where he is so much as that it increasingly appears he really wants to get to Iceland to hole up for an extended period of time. (You know, like Assange.)
Iceland was Snowden's endgame, he told Greenwald in that big first interview that broke two Sundays ago. Greenwald also told The Atlantic Wire that Snowden "might" have "a contingency plan to protect himself" with more leaks than even The Guardian had left on hand. But good ole Mr. Greenwald is here to break up the apparent leaker lovefest: "I'm not aware that WikiLeaks has any substantive involvement at all with Snowden, though I know they've previously offered to help," he told Buzzfeed's Rosie Gray on Wednesday afternoon.
So, that's kind of weird, right? A day after Snowden started drawing comparisons to the egomaniacal Assange because of his comments in that online chat, the Wikileaks founder claims (perhaps falsely) that the two have teamed up. But if that's not true, then this is really a sad cry for help, right? Wikileaks isn't relevant anymore, and neither is Julian Assange. He's just a dude squatting in an embassy to avoid sexual assault charges. No one was paying him any attention until Snowden came along. So is this just a cry for attention? A reason for Assange to garner more headlines and for reporters to call him more often? Maybe! Probably. Almost certainly.
For the record: Wikileaks's track record vis-as-vis asylum and getting people safely to their desired country is a little spotty. Assange is still holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London one year after the country granted him asylum, and his Snowden comments happened to come in the middle of an anniversary press tour of sorts. What we're getting at is: Maybe Ed Snowden shouldn't want his help, because Ed Snowden might be in even bigger trouble.