National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden is now in Moscow, after the U.S. failed to extradite him from Hong Kong. He reportedly plans to fly from Moscow to Havana, Cuba, and then to Caracas, Venezuela, on Monday, according to a source from Russian airline Aeroflot.
Snowden was in Hong Kong for several weeks after leaking highly classified information on the NSA’s PRISM program. The U.S. charged the 29-year-old with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willful communication of classified communications intelligence to an unauthorized person; two of the charges fall under the Espionage Act.
No warrant was issued for Snowden in Hong Kong and he was not charged with an equivalent crime. His decision to leave was perfectly legal.
The South China Morning Post claims Snowden’s final destination might actually be Ecuador or Iceland, where famous fugitive chess player Bobby Fischer sought asylum in 2005 and later died in 2008.
A doctor in the Ecuadorian embassy examined Snowden when he arrived in Moscow, a source told RT. Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder also charged with espionage, told the Australian Sydney Morning Herald that Snowden will be met at the airport with “diplomats from the country that will be his ultimate destination” who will accompany him on his flight.
“Mr. Edward Snowden left Hong Kong today (June 23) on his own accord for a third country through a lawful and normal channel,” said the Hong Kong government in a press release. The release also stated that the U.S. “did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law” to extradite Snowden.
“As the HKSAR Government has yet to have sufficient information to process the request for a provisional warrant of arrest, there is no legal basis to restrict Mr. Snowden from leaving Hong Kong.”
The Russian state-run news agency reported that there are no charges against Snowden in Russia and the authorities there have no reason to detain him. Because he allegedly doesn’t have a Russian visa, which Americans require to travel into Russia, he can’t leave the transit area of Sheremetyevo airport.