QUITO, June 17 (Xinhua) -- Ecuador would consider granting asylum to whistleblower Edward Snowden, the ex-CIA employee who single- handedly disclosed the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA)'s PRISM mass-surveillance program, a top Ecuadorian official said Monday.
"Mr. Snowden may ask the Ecuadorian government for asylum, if he wants, and of course we will examine his request, as we did with Assange (WikiLeaks founder)," Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino was quoted by local media as saying.
Ecuador "is firmly committed to protecting human rights," said Patino, adding that the WikiLeaks founder, who was granted asylum by Ecuador last June but has been holed up at its embassy in Britain, is prepared to stay at Ecuador's embassy in Britain for five years.
Snowden, 29, exposed the NSA's global spying program, which collects and analyzes Internet data from around the world. The United States has launched a criminal investigation into the disclosure.