Snowden flees to Russia despite US passport revocation
June 24, 2013 50 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An American former intelligence contractor, who leaked classified information about intelligence operations, was able to leave Hong Kong for Russia on Sunday, despite having his United States passport revoked. Earlier this month, Edward Snowden, a former technical assistant for the Central Intelligence Agency, disclosed the existence of PRISM, a clandestine electronic surveillance program operated by the US National Security Agency (NSA). Shortly before leaking information about US intelligence operations to the world’s media, Snowden traveled to Hong Kong, a territory under the control of the People’s Republic of China. Last week, Washington charged Snowden, a self-described whistleblower, under the Espionage Act, and revoked his American passport, in an attempt to prevent him from leaving Hong Kong. But reports emerged on Sunday that Snowden had boarded an Aeroflot flight from Honk Kong to Russian capital Moscow, despite the revocation of his American passport. US authorities claim that Snowden’s transfer to Moscow occurred after Washington revoked his American passport, which raises the question of how the former CIA employee was able to exit Chinese territory. Several reports suggest that Snowden was accompanied by “unidentified diplomats” as he left Hong Kong for Moscow. Previously, the US had applied considerable diplomatic pressure on China, requesting Snowden’s extradition. But Hong Kong allowed the American fugitive to board a plane to Moscow, saying it had been given “no legal basis to restrict Mr. Snowden from leaving”. Many believe it would have been difficult for Snowden to board a flight operated by Russian state carrier Aeroflot without tacit approval by Moscow. The American is said to have fled to Moscow en route to Cuba; his final destination appears to be Ecuador, where he is said to have been offered political asylum. The US maintains an extradition treaty with Ecuador, but not with Russia; technically, however, Snowden has not entered Russian soil, as he stayed in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport. Sources suggest that the former CIA technician was met by Ecuadorean diplomats at Sheremetyevo; if this was so, the diplomats most likely provided Snowden with Ecuadorean travel documents, thus enabling him to travel on to Ecuador. Meanwhile, the US Department of State said on Sunday that Snowden was “wanted on felony charges” and warned all countries in the western hemisphere that he “should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel”.