An Edward Snowden banner is displayed in Hong Kong. (Kin Cheung/AP)
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange confirmed on Monday that Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency contractor accused of espionage for leaking information about U.S. surveillance programs, is in transit and headed to Ecuador to seek asylum.
"Edward Snowden left Hong Kong on the 23rd of June bound for Ecuador via a safe pass through Russia and other states," Assange told reporters on a conference call. "Mr. Snowden has submitted an asylum application to Ecuador and possibly to other countries."
The WikiLeaks legal team has been assisting Snowden's applications for asylum in Iceland and has aided his efforts to do the same in Ecuador at Snowden's request. Sarah Harrison, a WikiLeaks representative, has been traveling with Snowden.
Snowden and Harrison "are healthy and safe ... and they are in contact with their legal teams," Assange said. Later, during a Q-and-A session, Assange declined several times to offer further details regarding their location.
"We are aware of where Mr. Snowden is. He is in a safe place, and his spirits are high. Due to the bellicose threats coming from the U.S. administration, we cannot go into further details at this time," Assange said, adding that Snowden is traveling with "a refugee document of passage" from the Ecuadorean government.
Assange suggested Snowden and Harrison's travels have been noteworthy. "In relation to their travel out of Hong Kong—that is a fascinating story that I'm sure one day will be told," he said.
Questions remain regarding whether WikiLeaks is planning to publish leaked material from Snowden.
Assange has lived at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London under asylum for over a year as he seeks to avoid extradition to Sweden to be questioned over alleged sex offenses.
He declined on Monday to directly address questions about publishing information from Snowden. "Of course, WikiLeaks is in the business of publishing documents that are suppressed by governments," he said.
Assange spent much of Friday's hour-long call expressing opposition to what he views as unfair U.S. policies on whistle-blowers—a term Assange uses to describe Snowden.
"Edward Snowden is not a traitor. He is not a spy. He is a whistle-blower who has told the public an important truth," Assange said.