Snowden in Moscow airport limbo


20080731 Moscow Airport 01

Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower, departed Hong Kong on Sunday, taking an Aeroflot flight to Moscow.

Hong Kong’s decision to allow him to leave comes a day after the US sought to turn up the pressure on the territory to hand him over, with a senior administration official telling the Washington Post: “If Hong Kong doesn’t act soon, it will complicate our bilateral relations and raise questions about Hong Kong’s commitment to the rule of law.” (Guardian)

The same day, Wikileaks published a statement that reads, in part:

Mr Edward Snowden, the American whistleblower who exposed evidence of a global surveillance regime conducted by US and UK intelligence agencies, has left Hong Kong legally. He is bound for a democratic nation via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisors from WikiLeaks.

Mr Snowden requested that WikiLeaks use its legal expertise and experience to secure his safety. Once Mr Snowden arrives at his final destination his request will be formally processed.

Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, confirmed today that Snowden remains in the Moscow airport, but  said he has no plans to turn over the fugitive whistleblower to US authorities.

“He has not crossed the state’s border, and therefore does not need a visa. And any accusations against Russia (of aiding him) are ravings and rubbish,” Putin said in the garden of a presidential residence, with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto beside him. (Reuters)

Reportedly, the US revoked Snowden’s passport, but officially claims “privacy” prevents it from commenting.

Numerous government officials have said on background that Edward Snowden’s passport has been revoked, but no one will confirm it on the record. (USAToday)

Snowden’s arrival at Moscow’s airport triggered a frenzy of media speculation about Snowden’s loyalties, one going so far as to lump Snowden with Lee Harvey Oswald and Kim Philby.  Putin has denied allegations that Russian security agencies have been in contact with the American, and there is no evidence yet that Snowden has been influenced by any other government.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation filed a complaint on June 14 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia charging Snowden with “Theft of Government Property,” “Unauthorized Communication of National Defense Information,” and “Willful Communication of Classified Communications Intelligence Information to an Unauthorized Person.”  Details of the complaint,  stamped “under seal,” somehow fell into the hands of the Washington Post and NBC news on a Friday afternoon.  Chris Geidner (Buzzfeed( writes:

The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald, who has been leading the paper’s coverage of the story, wrote Friday evening of the reports, “[L]eaking information about sealed indictments is illegal. Will these same people cheering Snowden’s prosecution demand an criminal investigation into that?”

The Post noted only that “U.S. officials” had provided the information for their story, while NBC News noted the information came from “officials familiar with the process.”