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 882.

    801. AverageWhiteMan
    "To all the nay sayers on government intelligence gathering...Would you prefer - the government looking at your personal data when its necessary (fine if you’ve nothing to hide) or 7/7, 9/11, Boston etc etc happening every other week??"

    I'd prefer the government to be open about what they are doing. After all, if they have nothing to hide....

  • rate this

    Comment number 881.

    @744.Poisoned Chalice
    'Wikileaks- an organisation headed up by a man feted as a hero, but who will not return to his own country to face charges of a sexual nature.'
    Assange is Australian not Swedish.
    'I trust our military who do have honor .'
    If they were truely honorable the abuse cases some of our military have beed accussed of would be held in open courts, rather than behind closed doors.

  • rate this

    Comment number 880.

    Done nothing wrong, got nothing to fear?

    These spy agencies could put stuff on your computer. They can persuade people to lie about you. They do not stick to the rules.

  • rate this

    Comment number 879.

    To those asking why the BBC hasn't covered the Guardian's revelations about GCHQ tapping fibre-optic cables, they've been served with a 'D-notice' from the MoD meaning they can't report on it, that's right folks, censorship.

  • rate this

    Comment number 878.

    ref #754
    Depends whose opinion you are speaking about , the U.S is solidly against Snowden even Dad says come home to face consequences
    ref #676 The Guardian especially Greenwald are apolgists for terrorists look how they blame the victims for the Marathon bombings

  • rate this

    Comment number 877.

    This is the price you have to pay for freedom of speech,individual right in democratic country or so called human rights.Also governments of democratic values have to answer for their actions.Still I can not understand the point in negotiating with Taliban for peace in Afghanistan after seeing their actions for twelve years.Why not to do same with Edward Snowden?

  • rate this

    Comment number 876.

    I suspect the US authorities are being very slow witted about Mr Snowden. The young idealists are boxing clever, leading Yanks up various garden paths

    That is what happens when folk are unable to think outside their cage

    Mr Snowden seems to have hold of the lead, while the dog barks and growls

  • rate this

    Comment number 875.

    @636 Anomos
    Reason for 2 hour delay? That's because all these comments on HYS are being routed through the NSA which is looking for accomplices sending secret message to Snowden via the BBC. As you can see we are all 'traitors' to agree with Snowden. US surveillance is now more intense than ever and what can you really expect of the British government with its 'special relationship' to the US.

  • rate this

    Comment number 874.

    A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, hide in the very halls of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor; he speaks in accents familiar to his victims

  • rate this

    Comment number 873.

    Let's get the conversation on the illegal data capture and not the carrier of bad news. The spying charges should be brought by the UK and put to the NSA.Our politicians have been unsurprisingly quiet on this.
    This is what happens when you get into bed with the biggest hypocritical nation in the world

  • rate this

    Comment number 872.

    749. Anchoriteinasealedcave

    I see Trenton Oldfield, the Australian boat race protester, is being kicked out of the UK. Perhaps he and Mr Snowden could meet up in a bar in Ecuador and swap civil liberty rage stories with Julian Assange (by video link)?

    I don't believe the UK and US are quite as bad as some of you lot seem to think.

    A few Islamic off the wall terrorist would be welcome also

  • rate this

    Comment number 871.

    Poisoned Chalice
    2 Hours ago

    "Wikileaks- an organisation headed up by a man feted as a hero, but who will not return to his own country to face charges of a sexual nature."



    Even a cursory fact-checking might turn up that Australia is not Sweden!

  • Comment number 870.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 869.

    I am minded of Sir Humphrey Appleby - I need to know *everything*. How else can I judge whether or not I need to know it? Bernards reply "If you don't need to know, you still need to know so that you know that there is no need to know."

    They need to know everything so they know what they don't need.

    They think this is right, they are wrong but will carry on regardless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 868.

    703 paul.
    "Best be careful what you say on here too;"

    If millions of people start saying what should be said. Maybe the Governments of USA and UK might start thinking about why they exist..

  • rate this

    Comment number 867.

    Like it or not, but the war on terror was lost years ago, that fact is proven by observing how paranoid our governments have become, we are watched/monitored every minute of every day, protecting our freedoms? Don't make me laugh.

  • rate this

    Comment number 866.

    257. Dixon

    The Boston bombing and the beheading of Lee Rigby all happened after these various security measures were already in place. This shows that these security measure don't work for their given intent.

    Look up the US whistle blower William Binney.

    In the UK we would never had know about the MP's expenses scandal if it had no been leaked as Parliament wanted those details kept secret.

  • rate this

    Comment number 865.

    There is more to this than just one man uncovering a massive american spying program. If you look at the current political trend in the US it is towards nationalistic fascism the Republicans becoming the antithesis of all things democratic. They support a global corporate state run like a dictatorship and to defend this system requires controlling populations via repressive laws and spying.

  • rate this

    Comment number 864.

    It is truly heart warming how some people who see Snowden as a Hero are totally intolerant of an alternative viewpoint.

    At this stage we know very little, well nothing really about who Snowden is or what his motivations are.

    Then again Anarchists always have been intolerant.

  • rate this

    Comment number 863.

    We now see exactly what the American government really gets off on – illicit undercover practices that cannot be justified. Rock on, Mr Snowden!!!


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