Edward Snowden, NSA leaker, reportedly lands in Moscow

HQ of Hong Kong Government Flying Service
HQ of Hong Kong Government Flying Service (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An Aeroflot flight from Hong Kong carrying Edward Snowden, the former contractor who leaked top-secret documents about U.S. surveillance programs, landed at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Russia on Sunday. Snowden left Hong Kong “on his own accord for a third country,” the government in Hong Kong said Sunday afternoon.

Snowden’s final destination was unclear. Russian news agency Interfax and Radio Ekho Moskvy reported that Snowden was booked on a flight to Cuba and then from Havana to Caracas, Venezuela. The next Aeroflot flight to Havana leaves Monday afternoon. Ecuador and Iceland have also been mentioned as possibilities.
A black BMW with diplomatic license plates assigned to the Ecuadorian Embassy was seen parked at Sheremetyevo, but it was unclear who might have been in the car.

Snowden is being aided in his travel by WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy organization that published hundreds of thousands of classified documents. The group posted on Twitter about 5 a.m. EDT that Snowden was “currently over Russian airspace accompanied by WikiLeaks legal advisors.” The organization later said Snowden was accompanied on his flight to Moscow by Sarah Harrison, who the organization said is a UK citizen, journalist and legal researcher working with the WikiLeaks legal defense team.

Snowden has drawn comparisons to Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army private who provided the secret files to WikiLeaks.

“The WikiLeaks legal team and I are interested in preserving Mr. Snowden’s rights and protecting him as a person,” said Baltasar Garzon, legal director of WikiLeaks and lawyer for Julian Assange, the group’s founder who has spent the past year holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. “What is being done to Mr. Snowden and to Mr. Julian Assange — for making or facilitating disclosures in the public interest — is an assault against the people.”

Snowden was being examined at the airport by a doctor from the Ecuadorian Embassy, according to RT, a television network financed by the Russian government.

The Hong Kong government said that documents from the U.S. government requesting a warrant for his arrest “did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law.” And so it has asked the United States 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,” the statement said.

A a senior Justice Department official disputed that claim. “The request met the requirements of the agreement,” said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They came back to us late Friday with additional questions and we were in the process of responding. Obviously this raises concerns for us and we will continue to discuss this with the authorities there.”

The Hong Kong government said it had informed the U.S. government that Snowden had left.

It has also formally written to the U.S. government asking for “clarification” on reports that computer systems in Hong Kong had been hacked by U.S. agencies.


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