Snowden is 'not on plane' to Cuba in Ecuador asylum bid

Supporters of Edward Snowden in Hong Kong. 13 June 2013 Edward Snowden is regarded as a hero by some, and a villain by others

The location of former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden is unclear after a flight he was expected to take from Russia apparently left without him on board.

Reports suggested he would fly to the Cuban capital Havana on his way to Ecuador where he is seeking asylum.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has called him a "traitor to his country".

Mr Snowden initially fled to Hong Kong after leaking secret documents about US internet and phone surveillance.

'Face justice'

Mr Snowden flew from Hong Kong to Russia on Sunday. Hong Kong's government said Mr Snowden left the city voluntarily.

But Albert Ho, his lawyer in Hong Kong, told the BBC that a government official urged Mr Snowden to go over the weekend. Mr Ho said he believed the official was acting on the orders of the Beijing government.

He added that his client was given assurances that he would be allowed to leave freely.

Who is Edward Snowden?

Edward Snowden
  • Age 30, grew up in North Carolina
  • Joined army reserves in 2004, discharged four months later, says the Guardian
  • First job at National Security Agency was as security guard
  • Worked on IT security at the CIA
  • Left CIA in 2009 for contract work at NSA for various firms including Booz Allen
  • Called himself Verax, Latin for "speaking the truth", in exchanges with the Washington Post

A flight to Havana, which Mr Snowden had been expected to board on Monday, departed late from Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport.

Journalists on the plane said there was no sign of the fugitive former intelligence contractor.

An Aeroflot airline worker, who asked not to be named, told Associated Press news agency that Mr Snowden was not on the flight.

The US state department has urged countries in the "Western Hemisphere" not to let him enter their territory.

Washington said it expected the Russian government to "look at all options available" to transfer him to the US to face spying charges - but Russia reportedly said it has "no grounds" to do so.

"We expect the Russian government to look at all options available to expel Mr Snowden back to the US to face justice for the crimes with which he is charged," Caitlin Hayden, US National Security Council spokeswoman, said on Sunday.

She highlighted "intensified co-operation" between the US and Russia after the Boston Marathon bombings in April and their record of working together on law enforcement matters.

Passenger on flight from Hong Kong to Moscow sees luggage transferred from plane directly to a car

But Russia's Interfax news agency quoted an unnamed Russian source as saying: "Snowden has not committed any crimes on Russian territory.

"In addition, Russian law-enforcement agencies have received no instructions through Interpol to detain him. So we have no grounds to detain this transit passenger."

The US had been trying to extradite Mr Snowden from Hong Kong, but authorities there said the US request was incomplete and there was no legal basis to stop him from departing.

The US justice department said it was "disappointed" that Hong Kong did not arrest Mr Snowden and that it "disagrees" with its reasons for not doing so.

"We find their decision to be particularly troubling," an official said.

Mr Snowden had been expected to fly first to Cuba and then to Venezuela before heading to Ecuador to avoid any country that might arrest him on behalf of the US.

'Escorted by diplomats'

Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino: "We take care of human rights"

Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said on Monday that Mr Snowden's asylum request was being "analysed".

Ecuador is already giving political asylum to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has been sheltering in its London embassy for the past year.

Wikileaks is now supporting Mr Snowden and said in a statement that he was "bound for the Republic of Ecuador via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisers from Wikileaks".

Although the US and Ecuador have a joint extradition treaty, it is not applicable to "crimes or offences of a political character".

Mr Snowden left his home in Hawaii after leaking details of his work as an NSA (National Security Agency) contractor and the extensive US surveillance programme to the UK's Guardian newspaper and the Washington Post.

Wikileaks spokesperson Kristinn Hrafnsson told the BBC he believed the fugitive would eventually be recognised as a hero

He has been charged in the US with theft of government property, unauthorised communication of national defence information and wilful communication of classified communications intelligence.

Each of the charges carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence.

The Obama administration is desperate to get its hands on Mr Snowden before he reveals any more secrets, says the BBC's Paul Adams in Washington.

Mr Snowden's leaks have led to revelations that the US is systematically seizing vast amounts of phone and web data under an NSA programme known as Prism.

US officials have defended the practice of gathering telephone and internet data from private users around the world.

They say Prism cannot be used to intentionally target any Americans or anyone in the US, and that it is supervised by judges.



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  • rate this

    Comment number 402.

    I never voted for a UK government that promised to violate my privacy, involve me in illegal wars, protect people in "high places", deny my fellow citizens the dignity of survival.

    If the citizens of the US did, then they have the government they deserve, personally I think the population as a whole are decent but, like us, they suffer from self serving politicians and business minus ethics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 401.

    Since when has whistle-blowing become spying???

    Although surveillance of some description is inevitable in the digital age, it's good for us to at least know whats being listened to, read, stored, including for how long and to whom it's passed FIRST.

    There should be some degree of rules and transparency, with Politicians kept well away as due to their dire reputation for telling the truth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 400.

    If not for Snowden, then who will stand up and expose the abuses of our rights by our own government? How many of you calling him a traitor would have the guts to walk away from all you know for doing what you feel in your heart is right? He should be protected as a whistle blower. As for signing a contract, if you see someone breaking the law, would a contract keep you from doing the right thing?

  • rate this

    Comment number 399.

    What, the Snowden World Traitor Tour isn't stopping in Tehran or Pyongyang?

  • rate this

    Comment number 398.

    what we do defines our life.
    when we make big mistakes misery can follow for the rest of our life.
    what can Snowden look forward too in old age?
    reflecting on his big mistake.
    building escape and justification plans,
    meanwhile the wheel of life turns.

  • rate this

    Comment number 397.

    I cannot fathom the charges against Edward Snowden. He is a whistleblower, not a terrorist, not a spy and definitely not a traitor. He has leaked nothing which was sensitive in spying terms and nothing which has put the security of man or country at stake. Only the faked reputation of the USA and similar culprits are at stake. Snowden is a world citizen nad has transcended physical boundaries!

  • rate this

    Comment number 396.

    What is it that requires security? Freedom defines our beliefs and our culture - it is not to be sold for the sake of some immeasurable and uncontrolled security. Let's put it into perspective. We kill 1.25 million and injure 7 million globally in road accidents every year - who fears getting into a car? Another 58 million die of preventable diseases every year and yet we all continue to travel.

  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

    When you live in an inverted Totalitarianism masked as "democracy" your choices are limited to Pepsi or Coke, smoking or non smoking. Now even those options are being taken from you. Corporations own almost all Governments, their profit margins dictate Government policy. Anybody who exposes their corruption will be taken out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    All that fuss about Rebecca Brooks and the News Of The World when according to the government and GCHQ its perfectly ok to spy on the public?

  • rate this

    Comment number 393.

    I don't have any sympathy for Snowden. He knew what he was doing, and he has to accept the consequences. His "revelations" are no great surprise. The whole purpose of General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is in its name, so data gathering on a colossal scale is what one would expect it to do. His route to exile through China, Russia and Cuba says it all. A traitor to his country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.

    I love to see William Hague is offering/accepting him as Asylum

    He is well deserved asylum as compared to more than 99% of asylums living in UK

    Mr Hague always speaks boldly about many international issues - why not in this issue

  • rate this

    Comment number 391.

    Save Edward Snowden. US government doing crime by spying individuals' secrets.

  • rate this

    Comment number 390.

    The US (and UK) govts have got used to crying 'security' as an excuse for prying, bullying and snooping. Time for a bit of honesty and a lot less bullying!

  • rate this

    Comment number 389.


    "There needs to be an independent ... body, made up of legal experts and the general public for each country "

    A noble idea but any centralised body would be exposed to corruption and manipulation if it has any sort of top down hierarchy on what can be exposed just look at CQC, would be a case of who watches the watchmen, we just need more protection for whistleblowers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    In order to have positive feelings over the NSA spying programs you'd need to believe that everyone involved in the program has no motivation to use the data, sell the data, edit the data or lie about what the data said. Since they were unable to protect us from one man with no spy training it is obvious they cannot protect the information from any professional. Their assurances are worthless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 387.

    Anyone truly believing that the UK operates on the basis of "Innocent until proven guilty" has never been a victim of the legal process here. Snowden is guilty of betrayal of his country and of those dragged into the subsequent mess. Yes, the UK spies on anyone it feels is a security risk, yet the ability to actually do anything about it is minimal. Snowden is now a fugitive for life.

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    I'm amazed that people are surprised at all about the spying. They must not have been paying attention to all the leaks over the last few years about listening rooms and wire taps at telecoms companies.

    I'm glad people are catching up to just how much they are watched by government. I have no faith we (as a democratic populace) will do anything about it though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    Since when did 'whistleblower' become such a dirty word?

    According to the USOSC, a whistleblower discloses information he or she reasonably believes evidences a violation of ANY law, rule or regulation, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public safety, etc. Given the extraordinary nature of the abuse, surely Snowden sought reasonable alternative avenues for disclosure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 384.

    The Irony is comical, it's ok for U.S. companies to sue for intellectual property, illegal downloading, patent rights etc, around the world, but it's not ok for us to do likewise when governments steal our intellectual property, our files etc to use as they wish and have the audacity to claim it's to keep us "free", I'm not a U.S. citizen, you have no rights to anything I own, good luck Snowden!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.

    This guy is a hero, there was nothing in it for himself, he could of lost his life already and his family. As IT man in a small publishing company, I can say the directors on many occasions have asked us to look through email and websites and call logging to see the progress on members of staff. Any company say over a 50 staff uses a packetshaper to monitor and control web traffic, so you see all.


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