NSA leaker Edward Snowden is seeking asylum in Ecuador after departing Hong Kong on Sunday for Moscow. His departure came just a day after the U.S. Justice Department filed an extradition request to the Hong Kong government for his arrest.
U.S. Justice Department has confirmed Snowden’s departure from Hong Kong for a third country. “We will continue to discuss this matter with Hong Kong and pursue relevant law enforcement cooperation with other countries where Mr. Snowden may be attempting to travel,” Justice Department spokeswoman Nanda Chitre said Sunday, the USA Today reported.
Hong Kong government said Sunday in a statement Snowden, 30, was permitted to fly out on “his own accord” because the U.S. extradition request announced Saturday did not fully comply with Hong Kong law. Moreover, U.S. had not yet provided additional information requested to consider U.S. request for provisional arrest warrant. It said there was no legal basis to stop him from leaving, and the U.S. had been informed of his departure.
Although the U.S. authorities have revoked Saturday Snowden's passport, Snowden is traveling to the very countries with tense relationship with United States.
In Moscow, Snowden was not allowed to leave the airport because he does not have a Russian visa, according to Interfax. He was accompanied by Wikileaks representative Sarah Harrison, a British citizen and Assange confidante who does have a Russian visa, according to Interfax.
Although Russian president was unaware of Snowden’s plans to fly to Moscow, said his spokesman, he said earlier this month that Kremlin would consider granting Snowden asylum if Snowden asked for it.
Hong Kong also said it had asked the U.S. to clarify reports, based on interviews with Snowden that NSA had hacked into computers in Hong Kong and would follow up on the matter “to protect the legal rights of the people of Hong Kong.”
On Sunday, the South China Morning Post published the allegations of hacking in Hong Kong and China based on its June 12 interview with Snowden. The newspaper reported that Snowden had provided information to show that the NSA had hacked into the Hong Kong system of Pacnet, which runs undersea telecommunication cables around the Pacific, and into 63 computers and servers at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
A criminal complaint against Snowden was issued Friday in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, where his former employer government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, is headquarter, in McLean.
He is charged with unauthoritized communication of national defense information, willing communication of classified communications intelligence information and theft of government property. The first two are under the Espionage Act and each of the three crimes carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison on conviction.
Earlier this month, Snowden’s name first surfaced as the person who had leaked to the news media that the NSA, in two highly classified surveillance programs, gathered telephone and internet records to ferret out terror plots.