Monday, June 24, 2013

 

Plane lands in Cuba,but no sign of Snowden

Expected to fly from Moscow to Cuba on his way to seeking asylum in Ecuador, Edward Snowden is missing again.


 Where is Edward Snowden?: An empty passenger seat was reportedly reserved by NSA leaker Edward Snowden on a plane bound for Cuba in Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport.
Reuters Photo: Maxim Shemetov. NSA leaker Edward Snowden reportedly was bound for Cuba, but the seat reserved for him on a plane leaving Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport is empty. 
WASHINGTON — The bizarre journey of Edward Snowden is far from over. After spending a night in Moscow's airport, the former National Security Agency contractor — and admitted leaker of state secrets — was expected to fly to Cuba and Venezuela en route to possible asylum in Ecuador. But he is reportedly not on the plane to Havana, according to Reuters.

Snowden not seen on Moscow-to-Havana flight
A Russian plane left Moscow and landed in Havana on Monday, but there was no sign of Snowden on board, a Reuters correspondent on the plane said.

The founder of the WikiLeaks secret-spilling organization, Julian Assange, insisted he couldn't go into details about where Snowden was, but said he was safe.
A flight attendant said Snowden was not on the plane, and the seat he had been expected to occupy was taken by another passenger. A source at Russian carrier Aeroflot, which was operating the flight, said, "He didn't take the flight."

Snowden, also a former CIA technician, fled Hong Kong on Sunday to dodge U.S. efforts to extradite him on espionage charges, according to The Associated Press. Ecuador's foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, said his government had received an asylum request, adding Monday that the decision "has to do with freedom of expression and with the security of citizens around the world." The anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks also said it would help Snowden.

Snowden expected to board Cuba flight: A banner supporting Edward SnowdenSnowden gave documents to The Guardian and The Washington Post newspapers disclosing U.S. surveillance programs that collect vast amounts of phone records and online data in the name of foreign intelligence, often sweeping up information on American citizens. Officials have the ability to collect phone and Internet information broadly but need a warrant to examine specific cases where they believe terrorism is involved.
Snowden had been in hiding for several weeks in Hong Kong, a former British colony with a high degree of autonomy from mainland China. The United States formally sought Snowden's extradition from Hong Kong to face espionage charges but was rebuffed; Hong Kong officials said the U.S. request did not fully comply with their laws.
Ecuador considers Snowden asylum requestThe Justice Department rejected that claim, saying its request met all of the requirements of the extradition treaty between the U.S. and Hong Kong. During conversations last week, including a phone call Wednesday between Attorney General Eric Holder and Hong Kong Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen, Hong Kong officials never raised any issues regarding the sufficiency of the U.S. request, a Justice representative said.

The United States was in touch through diplomatic and law enforcement channels with countries that Snowden could travel through or to, reminding them that Snowden is wanted on criminal charges and reiterating Washington's position that Snowden should be permitted to travel back only to the United States, a State Department official said. Snowden's U.S. passport has been revoked.

U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the case.

An unidentified Aeroflot airline official was cited by Russia's state ITAR-Tass news agency and Interfax as saying Snowden was on the plane that landed Sunday afternoon in Moscow. The Russian report said Snowden intended to fly to Cuba Monday and then on to Caracas, Venezuela.

The White House was hoping to stop Snowden before he left Moscow.
Still, the United States is likely to have problems interrupting Snowden's passage. The United States does not have an extradition treaty with Russia but does with Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador. Even with an extradition agreement, though, any country could give Snowden a political exemption.

The likelihood that any of these countries would stop Snowden from traveling on to Ecuador seemed remote. While diplomatic tensions have thawed in recent years, Cuba and the United States are hardly allies after a half-century of distrust. Another country that could see Snowden pass through, Venezuela, could prove difficult as well. Former President Hugo Chavez was a sworn enemy of the United States, and his successor, Nicolas Maduro, earlier this year called President Barack Obama "grand chief of devils." The two countries do not exchange ambassadors.
Snowden expected to board Cuba flight: Key locations in the life and career of Edward Snowden
AP Graphic. Key locations in the life and career of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. 
Snowden's options aren't numerous, said Michael Ratner, lawyer for Assange.

"You have to have a country that's going to stand up to the United States," Ratner said. "You're not talking about a huge range of countries here."

It also wasn't clear Snowden was finished disclosing highly classified information. He has perhaps more than 200 sensitive documents, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

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