Edward Snowden

Non-lawyer from WikiLeaks plays major role in Snowden case

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 June, 2013, 7:50am

When WikiLeaks claimed in a tweet that it was assisting NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden's "political asylum in a democratic country" there was one detail that apparently confirmed its involvement - that Snowden was travelling with a person whose surname was Harrison.

Sarah Harrison - for whom WikiLeaks on Sunday published an updated biography - has been a staff member for more than two years, and is one of Julian Assange's closest advisers.

She began her involvement with the group when, as an intern at the UK-based Centre for Investigative Journalism, she was assigned to Assange ahead of WikiLeaks' publication of the Afghan war logs.

As several key members, including Assange's number-two Daniel Domscheit-Berg and several of his associates, left in a dispute with Assange, she became more important to WikiLeaks and was closely involved in the publication of the embassy cables and with Assange's personal legal battles to avoid extradition to Sweden. She has been pictured on numerous occasions attending court with the WikiLeaks founder.

Despite her closeness to Assange, Harrison may seem a strange choice to accompany Snowden, as unlike several people close to WikiLeaks - most notably human rights lawyer Jennifer Robinson - Harrison has no legal qualifications or background.

Julian Assange has made several public statements in support of Edward Snowden and told reporters last week he had been in touch with the whistleblower through intermediaries.

The direct intervention in Snowden's situation marks a departure in practice for WikiLeaks - which has previously stressed its arms-length relationship with sources - but is consistent with the organisation's world view on protecting and supporting whistleblowers.

Snowden's intended destination, his plans once he gets there, and whether WikiLeaks intends to play a longer-term role supporting him are not yet known.