Snowden flees to Russia despite US passport revocation

Edward SnowdenBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
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”.

51 Responses to Snowden flees to Russia despite US passport revocation

  1. Pete says:

    Looks like someone anticipated Eduard Snowden’s flight to Russia – see last paragraph .

    Aeroflot flies Moscow to Cuba (Havana) – but no scheduled Aeroflot service Cuba to Ecuador (Quito).

    However Aeroflot could fly unscheduled Cuba to Ecuador or perhaps a Chinese or Russian flagged business aircraft flight (Cuba to Ecuador).

  2. Pete says:

    If all goes to his plans Edward is due to catch Aeroflot flight AFL150 from Moscow Monday 5.05am New York time arriving Havana (Cuba) Monday 6.45pm New York time.

  3. Paul says:

    Excellent post Peter. Are you sure you’re just an enthusiast :)

  4. Paul says:

    Quick off the mark, try this and search AFL150 :

  5. When the USA flouts its own foundational laws at the meta level, combined with the fable of the boy who shouted wolf, what we are seeing should come as no surprise. A short lesson in the violations:

    When considering the news Edwards Snowden, who revealed the existence of ‘’PRISM’, has been charged with espionage, let’s not forget PRISM had been authorized by the FISA court. The United States constitution’s clause authorizing Congress to create courts does not employ language allowing a constitutional oxymoron; that is creating secret court undermining other clauses of the constitution, or one clause empowered to cancel out the other clauses.

    Restated in the simplest terms; When the clause allowing Congress to create courts is construed in such a way as to undermine other constitutional clauses, only one clause will count: the clause Congress gave away to secrecy. You can forget about the rest, including the clauses which guarantee a trial by your peers, the right to confront your accusers, your right to freely associate, your right to peaceably assemble, your right of public speech, all of which you can now be prosecuted in secret, and now your private speech which can be stolen and misconstrued as evidence in secret star chamber proceedings where you have no right of presence or counsel to challenge evidence or present contrary evidence, et cetera. The end result is no constitution at all.

    Any actual ‘treason’ committed has been the Congress authoring the FISA legislation, the President signing it, the Chief Justice employing the law’s clause authorizing him to make appointments to the secret FISA court and those appointees serving.

    Overlooking political animal and erstwhile law professor Obama who’s demonstrated not to have any constitutional principles at all, particularly this treason points to Chief Justice John Roberts, who possesses the training in law from a position which should, had the American Constitution meant anything at all, have prevented his conscience from making the appointments, effectively stopping the secret court in its tracks. John Robert’s close friend is Dick Cheney lawyer Shannen Coffin. Should this fact say anything to us?

    Here is an American conservative law expert on the matter backing Glen Greenwald and states Snowden the person is not the issue, this crosses party lines in a big way. It is the people committed the most fundamental crimes (congress) hollering most loudly for Snowden’s head, should be in the dock:

  6. Pete says:


    Far out! Amazing the technology these days.

    Although when I key in AFL150 on it trips to AFL1500 – a Russian internal/domestic flight.

    Might be we need to wait till the international AFL150 flight is in the air before we can follow its progress.

    Note that AFL150 flies south well within US airspace (at least 10 US states) before reaching Cuba!



  7. Paul says:


    This relies on Mode S transmissions from each plane and will be available. I haven’t done the time conversions but as soon as the aircraft is up you’ll see it – and be able to follow it for a good percentage of its trip. I’m not sure of coverage over the atlantic although coverage around Cuba is available.

    You might be interested to learn that I can run a Mode S receiver [on 1090MHz] from my home using a hacked tv dongle [cost £7.95] and a home made colinear antenna [cost nothing – made from junk box bits] and cover easily into France, as far West as Ireland and northerly into Leicester. My son has a similar system and he can see further south and East than I as he’s much higher. [I’m on south side of Crystal Palace Hill if you know it so you’ll understand why I can’t see East easily].

    One has to wonder if the subsequent flight Mr Snowden will be on will report a fault condition and conveniently land on US ground to repair…………..

  8. Pete says:

    Thanks Paul

    I see AFL150’s takeoff is listed as “Delayed” – reason unknown.

    I wonder if the US can simply refuse it entry over US airspace or something else?

    About two and a half hours to (rescheduled) takeoff.


  9. Paul says:

    Thanks Peter; I wonder if there’s negotiations going on here? Might be worthwhile to look at its arrival time in Moscow [AFL151] and see if it was overly late?

  10. Pete says:

    Yeah AFL150 could alter its course midair I suppose.

  11. Pete says:

    Perhaps news outlets are monitoring this thread. reported about an hour ago:

    “The Cuba-bound flight from Moscow on which whistleblower Edward Snowden is believed to be flying will pass [sic] through a sector which is controlled by US operators.

    According to Russian media reports, the Aeroflot aircraft will cross the Atlantic Ocean close to Newfoundland, believed to be under the jurisdiction of New York air traffic controllers.

    A source also told the Russian news agency Tass that Washington might resort to desperate measures to bring the American fugitive home, meaning the US authorities could try to intercept the flight.”


  12. Paul says:

    A source!!! Yes, that’s a journalistic term meaning its been lifted from somewhere or an overheard conversation.

  13. Pete says:


    Well AFL150 just took-off – about 5 minutes into its flight. Wonder if it has a Russian interceptor escort?


  14. Pete says:


    “The ex-CIA intelligence analyst was reportedly checked-in for the Moscow-Havana flight but was apparently not on board.”

    If ya can’t trust FSB to indicate whether he is or isn’t on the flight who can you trust?

  15. The prof says:

    I would think it is very likely the US will scramble jets to meet flight AFL 150 over Newfoundland/near the US coast-is there a US air base in Greenland? or maybe a “passenger”-(CIA/DIA/NSA/JSOC) will get “dangerously sick” over US airspace and the plane will have. to land. The plane could also sabotbeaged forcing it to make an emergency landing in US territory.

  16. Kidd says:

    is Edward Snowden the perfect spy name or not . the name takes us back to British double agents from a bygone era .

  17. Paul says:

    Brilliant Peter! It just gets more interesting ….. or he is on board and no ones saying?

  18. Pete says:

    For all we amateurs know young Edward could be sitting in the cockpit jumpseat up with the two pilots :) In that sense “yes” he wouldn’t be the passengers.

    Or he’s simply not on AFL150.

  19. Pete says:

    Correction “he wouldn’t be One of the passengers”

  20. Kidd says:

    he could be going ARGO. heavily made up to appear as an older person. The Snowden Affair, featuring (short american actor name goes here). tense drama, international intrigue , romance with a hot chick . coming soon to a theater near you

  21. Paul says:

    you jest Kidd, surely?

  22. TFH says:

    Or, The Snowden Affair, a scifi noir conspiracy flick with a twist.

  23. Mike says:

    Mr. West,

    As I read this blog, it is focused on intelligence, not politics. Every time I read one of your posts, it is political. Shouldn’t this forum be for interested enthusiasts of espionage, tradecraft, or history? I’m not asking to be snarky, I really am curious as to why you believe this to be the appropriate place for your comments.


  24. TFH says:

    Snowden and Manning, both supposed traitors running away with relatively low-grade info (something that hurts in the public view (as it maybe should) but no real strategic value) are paraded on the TV screen. Workers for various intel services view the news with outwards detecting camera and microphone, plus the ability to connect to the internet (with the owners permission or not) and report to its subscriber of user data :)

  25. Pete says:


    Was it not Karl or Groucho Marx who said:

    “Espionage is politics by covert means?”

  26. @Mike

    Separating politics from intelligence would be like trying drive your car with no fuel in the tank. Intelligence is the car, politics are the fuel. When the rule of law is undermined on the pretext of intelligence, it is highly relevant. If you have a problem with that, complain to Joe and Ian, not me.

    I don’t care for the comments in this blog at all times either, particularly when they are not in depth and appear more as lorry drivers gossiping over a two way radio but I don’t normally complain (and thanks for opening the door for my stating that)

  27. Paul says:

    If “…… appear more as lorry drivers gossiping over a two way radio …..” is aimed in my direction the splendid thing about my offering is that it is generally on subject, brief and not shrouded in twaddle from someone suffering from key tap diahorrea and an inflated ego.

    As this blog is open to all and sundry then we have to suffer the good, bad, long, short and occasionally an odd negative comment.

    I don’t bother to read your offerings Mr West; I see them as boring and a statement of your personality, not very interesting at all.

    Now, can we all get back to the business of Intel, please?

  28. @ Paul, looks like you read my offering after-all ;)

    “As this blog is open to all and sundry then we have to suffer the good, bad, long, short and occasionally an odd negative comment”

    is fine by me .. AND .. my comment replied to Mike’s

    “I really am curious as to why you believe this to be the appropriate place for your comments”

    There you have it

  29. Paul says:

    Ronald – touché!

    Note the use of ‘If’ to start the first sentence; however ‘if not’ then please ignore my last.


  30. Mike says:

    Mr. West,

    You don’t need me to open any doors for you. You appear to be capable and willing to opine on whatever you choose. I would say, however, that I appreciate that you make no pretense of objectiveness.

    With regard to politics driving intelligence, I don’t believe that to be the case at the tactical or line level. Pehaps you are referring to upper level admistrators or political appointees. At the actual collection level, no one could care any less about politics. There is simply a desire to complete the mission.

    Which brings me back to my earlier point: is this a political blog or an intelligence blog. I shall not complain to anyone, it’s not my blog and it is driven by the folks, like you, that participate. I do thank you for making it very clear where you stand on what people in the intelligence field should NOT be doing. To quote USMC Gen. David Shoup:

    “The galleries are full of critics. They play no ball. They fight no fights. They make no mistakes because they attempt nothing. Down in the arena are the doers. They make mistakes because they try many things. The man who makes no mistakes lacks boldness and the spirit of adventure. He is the one who never tries anything. He is the break in the wheel of progress. And yet it cannot be truly said he makes no mistakes, because his biggest mistake is the very fact that he tries nothing, does nothing, except criticize those who do things.”


  31. Peter Wallerberger says:

    Thankyou Mike – for realigning the focus on what we are supposed to be discussing here > namely, Edward Snowden..

  32. TFH says:

    I was checking upon a comment I made here recently, it may have been misplaced or delayed but just in case I would like to reiterate this concern: US governement agencies have in the past been found guilty in court of law to have committed the crime of using members of US population as guinea pigs.
    Recently there has been a big push to make it illegal to report on wrongdoings that are arguably immoral though technically legal. In the secret court system of today it might be possible for some intel scientist looking for attention to start experimenting on humans again, claiming it a necessity for national security. Then what clause if any in the Patriot acts protects someone reporting on something that really should not be funded by tax or anyone’s dollar?

  33. Pete says:

    Meanwhile, back on topic:

    Journalist can’t find Snowden anywhere at Moscow airport – although he could be holed up in a hotel room. “There have also been [FSB] personnel on patrol in plain clothes, some of them clearly monitoring the journalists…”

    “the Russian officers that Snowden might encounter during his stay at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport might be most interested in the National Security Agency’s surveillance infrastructure he helped run as a systems administrator for contractor Booz Allen Hamilton — and specifically, how Russia might be able to defeat it.”

  34. Peter Wallerberger says:

    Interesting move that Snowden has been granted ‘Refugee status’ by Ecuador . Given his U.S Passport has also been revoked then what does that make him – A stateless person ??

  35. intelNews says:

    @Peter: He is not stateless unless the US chooses to abrogate his citizenship. But at some point Ecuador will probably consider extending him Ecuadorean nationality. [IA]

  36. @Mike.. notice the political issues of ‘stateless person’ and ‘citizenship’ have entered quite independently of myself. The USA pursuing Snowden is quite political at this moment.

    I don’t see anything ‘line’ or ‘tactical’ specific in this either:

    “IntelNews is a specialized blog, written by two intelligence experts, which provides news and commentary on intelligence and espionage, in a timely, responsible and reflective manner”

    @ Joe & Pete; a note on Snowden’s citizenship would be USA law requires it be renounced by Snowden, it cannot normally be abrogated by government, but the USA is hardly following its own laws these days and I’d put nothing past them when it comes to secret ‘legal fictions’

  37. I find it a bit odd that most media and bloggers covering this subject imply that Snowden has something truly useful to share with the Russian services. Correct me if I’m wrong, but he’s just a sysadmin chap who I would imagine had no direct access to the sort of product which, for instance, Manning uploaded and linked (and lets face it, even Manning didnt leak anything mindblowing). Point is, if Snowden was of genuine interest to the Russians, he would have been extracted from HK in a, lets put midly, slightly less conventional and perhaps a bit more discreet way, and he would not be left skulking around the Sheremetevo transit area:))

  38. In Snowden’s case, he stated in his interview with Greenwald that he deliberately did not bring out strategically damaging information but limited himself more or less to exposing the USA’s political lies and constitutional violations.

    I agree with Dennis on Manning, Manning’s cables documents dump didn’t cause CIA any particular headache insofar as compromising ongoing covert ops, which, in a way, smells wrong. THE CIA and Department of State are in fact siamese twins and it defies human nature to expect ‘diplomats’ using what they believed to be a secure system, would not have compromised operations at some noticeable level. If I were Snowden (I’m glad I’m not), I’d be concerned about WikiLeaks claims of a British ‘legal expert’ accompanying him at all times ;)

  39. Paul says:

    @Denis Trifonov, The Dutch Intel Office had a mere clerk walk out with many megabytes of docs on many USB; although the clerk was detained they really have no idea what he passed over. MI6 had a similar employee do exactly the same but he was caught red handed. The point I make is that whilst Mr Snowden may not be anything special he may well have downloaded intel docs in the same way as the two aforementioned.

  40. Peter Wallerberger says:

    I seem to recollect another outstanding U.S public servant who took a vacation in Hong Kong in order to meet with his Russian handlers although that fella has since been disowned by the FBI and is languishing in a U.S Prison where he rightly belongs..

    I am confident that the NSA will ‘get their man’ – might not be today or tomorrow but you can rest assured they will not give up on this one , even if they have to eventually put a bounty on this traitors head.

    Whatever the outcome – there is no denying that the ‘reputational damage’ inflicted on the NSA as a result of this affair is incalculatable.

  41. @Paul, I would have thought NSA does not give authorisation to IT sysadmin staff to access let alone upload intel products:)) The two examples you refer to involved intel officers, not support IT staff. It seems to me Snowden was never part of any game played between intel agencies. Indeed, he comes across as someone who has no idea how these things operate, and he doesnt seem to have tried to sell himself to a foreign intel agency. If he did, he would have obviously acted a bit differently. I think the Chinese for instance would have gladly embraced him had he been a bit more discreet upon landing in HK and, instead of posting things on the net, went to one of several local offices of PRC intelligence (which arent terribly difficult to find).

  42. TFH says:

    Snowdens ‘crime’ (Verizon leak) is to inform U.S. citizens that at this time in history the formidable U.S. intelligence agencies have nearly the same freedom to spy on it’s own citizens as they have had to spy on the rest of the world for all history, that is to say unlimited.
    Until now it has been a given that only totalitarian states spy on its own with abandon, so these relatively recent changes in U.S. law (post 9-11) predict that either U.S. is becoming totalitarian or divided into those that spy and employ spies on the one hand and those that are spied upon.
    Maybe that is what Snowden want’s to prevent in his own small way by revealing what he knows about the whole thing.

  43. Peter Wallerberger says:

    Mr Trifonov – Edward Snowden has much to offer hence why it is in President Puttin’s interest that Snowden applies for Asylum in Russia. (Of course the application will be literally rubber stamped & fast tracked by the SVS.)

    Interesting though that Russia will now be harbouring / aiding and abetting a wanted felon.

    I’m not so sure that such a move is going to enhance Russian / U.S relations despite President Puttin’s recent “diplo-speak” aimed at diffuseing tensions .

    When the Russians have finished with Snowden he will probably be ‘swapped’ and find himself back in the U.S and in jail for life. He’s just a mere pawn in a very big game being played and he is completely and utterly out of his depth .

  44. Denis Trifonov says:

    @Peter, I presume by SVS you meant SVR? There are three considerations which l think challenge your assumptions. First, SVR has no powers to accommodate ES since he is in Russia already and it’s FSB jurisdiction (and indeed one observant local reporter spotted an FSB service car parked next to that of Equadorian ambassador in Sheremetevo on the day of ES arrival). Second, SVR has no ELINT division, these assets are shared between FSO and GRU. Third, and here I repeat what I said before, keeping ES in Sheremetevo transit area in public view is totally not Russian services’ modus operandi. I can assure you that if intention was to extract ES, he would have been flown somewhere like Ukraine or Kazakhstan, and would then vanish.

  45. Pete says:

    I wonder how much Sheremetevo stay time ES has bought by making his 3-4 laptops available for FSB copying – even if unintentionally?

  46. Paul says:

    America has a Russian whistleblower in their care, one Colonel Alexander Poteyev who dobbed in Anna Chapman and her band of illegals and probably the Anschlags and the Diplomat spy Raymond Poeteray.

    Mr Poteyev has been stripped of his rank and medals and given 25 years imprisonment in absentia.

    You can bet Mr Snowden will be offered for exchange once he’s been severely wrung out of information, I suspect.

  47. TFH says:

    “If you tolerate this then your children will be next.”
    For those that have children how do you feel about the fact that all of your childrens communication is recorded and logged by the state? Imagine what future technology will allow the state to do with that info. (with lyrics)

  48. Pete says:


    So where would you want to live? “EU Addresses Russia’s Human Rights Record”

  49. Pete says:

    Hi Paul

    Yes I think Russia sees Snowden (with his laptops) as a temporary intelligence asset – to be shipped out when convenient.

    Snowden’s human rights advocacy – even if it is selectively anti-Western and profit driven at the moment – would begin to question Russia’s more authoritarian standards – making Snowden a big headache for Putin and his FSB.

    Russia doesn’t even tolerate Pussy Riot whose advocates are behind bars.


  50. Paul says:

    Thanks Pete.
    @Dennis forget the blokes’ actual jobs within the organisation; the fact he’s ‘within’ open doors to him irrespective of what he can filch. There is never any complete intelligence picture and every snippet has its place, a brick in a very large wall. You’ll find that Snowden will go nowhere until the SVR or whoever has milked him dry three times over and then again just in case of anything missed or forgotten.

  51. xenonman says:

    Four years on, it looks now as if Snowden has found a new home in Russia. I’m not all that surprised; an NSA employee is a pretty major catch for them!

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