LONDON — The whole time Edward Snowden has been seeking asylum, WikiLeaks staffer Sarah Harrison has been by his side.
She has emerged as a central, if mysterious, figure in the saga that has taken Snowden across the world in an attempt to evade U.S. espionage charges. Harrison rose from intern to one of WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange's most trusted lieutenants in just a few years, but she has earned an even higher profile as Snowden's guide and adviser.
WikiLeaks says she traveled with the former NSA systems analyst from Hong Kong to Moscow. She appeared next to Snowden at a meeting with activists at the Moscow airport where he was stranded in hiding for weeks. She even slipped out of the airport in a taxi with him after Russia granted him asylum Thursday, according to the group.
WikiLeaks has otherwise not revealed much about her. But what is clear is that she has become indispensable to the organization.
It has described her as Snowden's legal adviser. While she does not appear to have a law degree, her bio on the Wikileaks websites lists Harrison as a "U.K. citizen, journalist and legal researcher." Media reports put her age at 31.
While interning at the Center of Investigative Journalism, based at London's City University, she helped WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange with the organization's disclosure of secret U.S. military records, according to the group's website. Harrison went on to join the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in August 2010, working as a researcher at the British not-for-profit that supports investigative journalism.
There she worked on the team handling a series of Iraq War files released by WikiLeaks to several major media organizations _before moving into WikiLeaks itself in October 2010. Since then, she has maintained a constant, but mostly silent, presence at Assange's side.
She was with him at the English country manor where he lived under house arrest while resisting extradition to Sweden on sex-related allegations. She was also with him at his court appearances. She was among those who forked over funds for his bail, money they lost when he sought refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in violation of his bail conditions.
But with Assange holed up in the embassy, Harrison has taken on a more public role with the organization.
She appeared at London's Frontline Club last year to announce that WikiLeaks was in the process of publishing material from 2.4 million Syrian emails, many of which it said came from official government accounts. In that appearance, she acknowledged that WikiLeaks was facing "a difficult time at the moment" but said "we are continuing to work through that."
On Thursday, WikiLeaks announced that Snowden had left the Moscow airport – under Harrison's care. Rarely seen publicly in their weeks hiding out at the Sheremetyevo airport transit zone, that appears unlikely to change now that they have taken a taxi to somewhere in Russia.
"Harrison has remained with Mr. Snowden at all times to protect his safety and security, including during his exit from Hong Kong," WikiLeaks said in a statement. "They departed from the airport together in a taxi and are headed to a secure, confidential place."