Former NSA worker Edward Snowden leaves Hong Kong for Cuba
Updated: 10:29, Sunday, 23 June 2013
The US had contacted Hong Kong seeking the extradition of Edward Snowden
Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden is reported to
have left Hong Kong and is travelling to Cuba via Moscow.
Mr Snowden left Hong Kong at 10.55am local time.
The Hong Kong government said he was allowed to leave Hong Kong because
the US extradition request did not fully comply with the law.
Russian airline Aeroflot has confirmed that there is a ticket for a
Moscow-Cuba flight in Mr Snowden's name.
Mr Snowden said yesterday that US hacking targets in China included the
nation's mobile-phone companies and two universities.
The Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that he is unaware of the
US whistleblower's location or plans.
The two Chinese universities host extensive Internet traffic hubs.
Washington is pushing Hong Kong to extradite the ex-contractor.
The latest charges from Edward Snowden came in a series of reports
published over the weekend by the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong's
leading English-language daily.
The newspaper, which appears to have access to Snowden, said he is still
in Hong Kong and not in police custody.
Yesterday, the Obama administration warned Hong Kong against dragging
out the extradition of Mr Snowden.
The warning reflected concerns over a possible long legal battle before
he ever appears in a US courtroom to answer espionage charges.
A formal extradition request would also pit Beijing against Washington
at a time China is trying to deflect US accusations that it carries out
extensive surveillance on American government and commercial operations.
The US has contacted authorities in Hong Kong to seek Snowden's
extradition, the National Security Council said Saturday in a statement.
The NSC advises the president on national security.
Mr Snowden told the South China Morning Post that "the NSA does all
kinds of things like hack Chinese cellphone companies to steal all of
your SMS data." It added that Snowden said he had documents to support
the hacking allegations, but the report did not identify the documents.
It said he spoke to the paper in a June 12 interview.
With a population of more than 1.3 billion, China has massive cell-phone
companies. China Mobile is the world's largest mobile network carrier,
with 735 million subscribers, followed by China Unicom with 258 million
users and China Telecom with 172 million users.
Snowden said Tsinghua University in Beijing and Chinese University in
Hong Kong, home of some of the country's major Internet traffic hubs,
were targets of extensive hacking by U.S. spies this year. He said the
NSA was focusing on so-called "network backbones" in China, through
which enormous amounts of Internet data passes.
Snowden is believed to be hiding in an unknown location in Hong Kong,
where he has been holed up since admitting to providing information to
the news media about highly classified NSA surveillance programs. He has
not been seen publicly since he checked out of a Hong Kong hotel on June 10.
The newspaper reports came after a one-page criminal complaint against
Snowden was unsealed Friday in federal court, revealing he had been
charged with espionage and theft.
The Obama administration on Saturday warned Hong Kong against
slow-walking his extradition, with White House national security adviser
Tom Donilon saying in an interview with CBS News: "Hong Kong has been a
historically good partner of the United States in law enforcement
matters, and we expect them to comply with the treaty in this case."
Some Hong Kong lawmakers have called on Beijing to intervene and
instruct the Hong Kong government on how to handle the situation before
his case goes through the courts, but Beijing has yet to comment. The
Hong Kong government has also not commented.
But China's state-run media have used the case to poke back at
Washington after the U.S. had spent the past several months pressuring
China on its international spying operations..
A commentary published Sunday by Xinhua News Agency said Snowden's
disclosures of U.S. spying activities in China have "put Washington in a
really awkward situation."
"Washington should come clean about its record first. It owes ... an
explanation to China and other countries it has allegedly spied on," it
said. "It has to share with the world the range, extent and intent of
its clandestine hacking programs
Source: "US whistleblower leaves Hong Kong for Cuba - RTÉ News" -