The U.S. says it is pressuring Russia to expel an intelligence
contractor to the United States to face espionage charges for his
disclosure of clandestine American surveillance programs.
In his secretive hide-and-seek run for asylum, Edward Snowden had been
booked on a Monday flight from Moscow to Havana, with his possible
eventual destination Ecuador, where he is seeking asylum. But the flight
to the Cuban capital left with no sign of him on board.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, whose secret-disclosing organization
is assisting Snowden, said the American fugitive is safe, but declined
to disclose where he is.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the U.S. has frequently returned
criminal suspects to Russia and said it expected to Russia to turn over
the 30-year-old Snowden to American authorities.
Carney criticized China for what he said was Beijing's "deliberate
choice" to allow Snowden to fly Sunday from Hong Kong to Moscow. He said
the Chinese decision "unquestionably" damaged relations between the U.S.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, on a visit to India, said U.S.
authorities "don't know, specifically, where [Snowden] may head, or what
his intended destination may be."
Ecuador's foreign minister, Richard Patino, said at a news conference in
Vietnam that Snowden had asked for asylum but he "can't give information
on Snowden's whereabouts." Patino said his government has been in
contact with Moscow.
Kerry said it "would be deeply troubling" for Hong Kong and Russia to
allow Snowden to continue his international journey to escape
prosecution in the U.S.
National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden says the White
House is disappointed that Snowden was allowed to leave Hong Kong
despite a "legally valid" request for his arrest. The statement early
Monday says the United States has registered "strong objections" with
authorities in Hong Kong and the Chinese government. Assange said
Snowden had a "refugee document of passage" from the Ecuadorian
government before leaving Hong Kong.
Ecuador says it is analyzing Snowden's request for asylum. Patino said
it would consider the asylum request based on the "principles of its
Quito has often criticized U.S. foreign policy, and Patino noted that
the U.S. has refused in the past to extradite "fugitive bankers...who
have hurt the interests of many Ecuadorians."
U.S. officials say Snowden's passport was revoked before he left Hong
Kong for Moscow. The government has advised countries where Snowden may
pass through or serve as his final destination that he is wanted on
felony charges and should not be allowed to travel internationally.
Ecuador has sheltered Assange at its London embassy for the past year to
prevent his possible extradition to the Sweden where he is under
investigation for sexual assault. His lawyers say Assange fears he will
be sent to the United States in connection with the group's publication
of secret U.S. diplomatic cables in 2010.
leaked documents showing that U.S. intelligence services have gathered
data for years about patterns of telephone and Internet use. He said he
believes the programs violate the privacy rights of citizens.
A senior administration official sharply criticized Snowden's motives,
saying his focus on transparency and individual rights "is belied by the
protectors he has potentially chosen." The official listed China,
Russia, Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador, saying Snowden's failure to
criticize those governments shows his "true motive" was to harm U.S.
Senior U.S. officials have said the surveillance programs do not monitor
the content of phone conversations, but look for patterns in the
metadata, including information on the time, date and numbers called.
U.S. authorities also have said the programs prevented at least 50
terrorist attacks worldwide since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the
United States. They have accused Snowden of weakening their ability to
foil future plots.