Sunday, June 23, 2013

Snowden Flies Out of Hong Kong as U.S. Seeks Extradition for Spying

Posted on Sunday, 06.23.13

Snowden Flies Out of Hong Kong as U.S. Seeks Extradition for Spying

HONG KONG -- A former National Security Agency contractor wanted by the
United States for revealing highly classified surveillance programs has
been allowed to leave for a "third country" because a U.S. extradition
request did not fully comply with Hong Kong law, the territory's
government said Sunday.

Hong Kong's government did not identify the country, but the South China
Morning Post, which has been in contact with Edward Snowden, reported
that he was on a plane for Moscow, but that Russia was not his final

Snowden, who has been in hiding in Hong Kong for several weeks since he
revealed information on the highly classified spy programs, has talked
of seeking asylum in Iceland.

However, Russia's ITAR-Tass news agency cited an unidentified Aeroflot
official as saying Snowden would fly from Moscow to Cuba on Monday and
then on to Caracas, Venezuela.

The White House had no immediate comment about Snowden's departure,
which came a day after the United States made a formal request for his
extradition and gave a pointed warning to Hong Kong against delaying the
process of returning him to face trial in the U.S.

The Hong Kong government said in a statement that Snowden left "on his
own accord for a third country through a lawful and normal channel."

It acknowledged the U.S. extradition request, but said U.S.
documentation did not "fully comply with the legal requirements under
Hong Kong law." It said additional information was requested from
Washington, but since the Hong Kong government "has yet to have
sufficient information to process the request for provisional warrant of
arrest, there is no legal basis to restrict Mr. Snowden from leaving
Hong Kong."

The statement said Hong Kong had informed the U.S. of Snowden's
departure. It added that it wanted more information about alleged
hacking of computer systems in Hong Kong by U.S. government agencies
which Snowden had revealed.

The anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks took credit for helping Snowden leave
Hong Kong, saying on Twitter, "Mr. Snowden is currently over Russian
airspace accompanied by WikiLeaks legal advisors."

Snowden's departure eliminates a possible fight between Washington and
Beijing at a time when China is trying to deflect U.S. accusations that
it carries out extensive surveillance of American government and
commercial operations. Hong Kong, a former British colony, has a high
degree of autonomy and is granted rights and freedoms not seen on
mainland China, but under the city's mini constitution Beijing is
allowed to intervene in matters involving defense and diplomatic affairs.

Hong Kong has an extradition treaty with the U.S., but the document has
some exceptions, including for crimes deemed political.

The Obama administration on Saturday warned Hong Kong against delaying
Snowden's 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."

Snowden's departure came as the South China Morning Post released new
allegations from Snowden that U.S. hacking targets in China included the
nation's cellphone companies and two universities hosting extensive
Internet traffic hubs.

He told the newspaper 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
newspaper in a June 12 interview.

With a population of more than 1.3 billion, China has massive cellphone
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.

The Chinese government has not commented on the extradition request and
Snowden's departure, but its state-run media have used Snowden's
allegations 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 the official 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: "HONG KONG: Snowden Flies Out of Hong Kong as U.S. Seeks
Extradition for Spying - World Wires -" -

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