The White House expects Russia to “look at all options available” to extradite Edward Snowden to the United States to face espionage charges. The former security contractor is reported to be seeking asylum in Ecuador.
National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said Monday the US registered objections to authorities in Hong Kong and China at the decision to let the former contractor for the US National Security Agency (NSA) flee. Many analysts call it highly unlikely that the Hong Kong government allowed Snowden to leave the semiautonomous territory without consulting the Chinese government.
“Such behavior is detrimental to US-Hong Kong and US-China bilateral relations,” Hayden said.
The former Central Intelligence Agency employee who worked for Booz Allen Hamilton as a subcontractor at the NSA has been on the run since leaking information about US surveillance activities to the news media a couple of weeks ago. Among other things, the documents leaked by Snowden included an insight into a US government program known as Prism, which gives the NSA access to vast amounts of Internet data such as emails, or social media websites.
A spokesman for the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks, which claims to be assisting Snowden in his efforts to avoid extradition to the US, confirmed that he planned to travel to Ecuador to seek asylum. Ecuador has already given refuge to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has spent the past year at the country’s embassy in London in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning over alleged sex crimes. Ecuador’s foreign minister said on Monday that the country would look into Snowden’s request for asylum.
“We will make a decision … We are analyzing it,” Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino told reporters.
On Monday, China announced that it had contacted US officials over revelations from Snowden that an intelligence agency may have hacked into computers there. He claimed to have evidence that the NSA had spied on the websites of Chinese telecommunications companies and a major university.
“We are gravely concerned about the recently disclosed cyberattacks by relevant US government agencies against China,” ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement. “It shows once again that China falls victim to cyberattacks,” she added. “We have made representations to the US.”
Hua also denied that mainland China’s government had anything to do with Snowden’s getaway from Hong Kong. She said that the country did not know the specifics of Snowden’s stay in the special administrative region within the People’s Republic of China that enjoys a greet degree of autonomy.
Snowden fled Hong Kong on Sunday and arrived at the Moscow airport, where he spent Sunday night. Reports say he plans to board an Aeroflot flight to Cuba. He could also make a stop in Venezuela on his trip.
mkg/dr (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)