A Reuters report says that NSA leaker Edward Snowden has slipped the leash in Hong Kong and is flying to Moscow today.
The Guardian reports that Snowden will fly from Moscow to Havanna, Cuba, and then on to Venezuela.
Authorities in Hong Kong have apparently denied a US request to arrest Snowden based on a technicality. Snowden is being assisted by lawyers and diplomats connected with the Wikileaks organization:
“It’s a shocker,” said Simon Young, a law professor with Hong Kong University. “I thought he was going to stay and fight it out. The U.S. government will be irate.”
Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted a source at the Aeroflot airline as saying there was a ticket in Snowden’s name for a Moscow-Cuba flight. Itar-Tass news agency cited a source as saying Snowden would fly from Havana to Caracas, the Venezuelan capital.
The South China Morning Post said his final destination might be Ecuador or Iceland.
A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was unaware of Snowden’s whereabouts or travel plans.
The WikiLeaks anti-secrecy website said it helped Snowden find “political asylum in a democratic country”. It did not elaborate, other than to say Snowden was “currently over Russian airspace” with WikiLeaks legal advisers.
The White House had no comment on the WikiLeaks posting.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said last week he would not leave the sanctuary of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London even if Sweden stopped pursuing sexual assault claims against him because he feared arrest on the orders of the United States.
U.S. authorities have charged Snowden with theft of U.S. government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and wilful communication of classified communications intelligence to an unauthorized person, with the latter two charges falling under the U.S. Espionage Act.
The United States had asked Hong Kong, a special administrative region (SAR) of China, to send Snowden home.
“The U.S. government earlier on made a request to the HKSAR government for the issue of a provisional warrant of arrest against Mr Snowden,” the Hong Kong government said in a statement.
“Since the documents provided by the U.S. government did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law, the HKSAR government has requested the U.S. government to provide additional information … As the HKSAR government has yet to have sufficient information to process the request for provisional warrant of arrest, there is no legal basis to restrict Mr Snowden from leaving Hong Kong.”
It did not say what further information it needed, but said Snowden left Hong Kong “on his own accord for a third country through a lawful and normal channel”.
If Snowden is, in fact, on his way to Venezuela, Wikileaks has a very strange notion of a “democratic country.” Freedom House, in their 2013 report on “Freedom in the World,” lists Venezuela as “partly free,” which may be a generous designation given that the internal security apparatus is run by Cubans and that “Chavista” bully boys routinely show up at opposition rallies to threaten and intimidate opponents. Snowden, who claimed he wanted to end up in a country with democratic values, could have made a better choice.
Then again, maybe not. The only nations where he will be safe from prosecution (or U.S. government vengeance) are countries that don’t like the U.S. very much. Any of those nations mentioned above will not honor a request from our government to extradite Snowden. By definition, none of those countries (except Iceland) are “free” in how we might define the term. Snowden may want to live in a democratic paradise, but his options are extremely limited.
The Guardian has a tweet from an ABC News editor:
Snowden’s Aeroflot flight to Havana passes thru US airspace. Will Federal authorities allow wanted man to fly over US or make plane land?
I doubt whether the Russian plane will obey any orders to land. And we’re not going to send up a couple of F-15s to force it to land either — not unless Obama is a total idiot. The chances of a mistake, while small, are significant and it’s crazy to risk an international incident with Russia over a passenger plane.
We have extradition treaties with both Cuba and Venezuela, but don’t expect much cooperation from either of those countries. The bottom line is that Snowden, unless their is a huge change in government in Venezuela, is probably going to be out of the reach of U.S. authorities there.