June 24, 2013

Snowden on the run with help from WikiLeaks

The anti-secrecy group helps the U.S. fugitive fly to Russia and says he’ll seek asylum in Ecuador.


MOSCOW — Edward Snowden, the former government contractor who leaked top-secret documents about U.S. surveillance programs, fled Hong Kong for Moscow on Sunday with the assistance of the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks and asked the government of Ecuador to grant him asylum.

Snowden's ultimate destination was uncertain, but Ricardo Patino, Ecuador's foreign minister, tweeted Sunday that his government had received a request for asylum from Snowden. WikiLeaks released a statement saying Snowden was "bound for the Republic of Ecuador via a safe route for the purposes of asylum."

Despite U.S. officials' insistence that Snowden's passport was revoked Saturday, the Hong Kong government said Sunday that he left "on his own accord for a third country."

Ecuadoran diplomats were at Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow, where Snowden landed aboard an Aeroflot flight about 5:05 p.m. It was not clear whether they were meeting with Snowden or with others who accompanied him. Snowden did not have a Russian visa, according to several sources, so he was confined to a transit area within the airport.

WikiLeaks, which has published hundreds of thousands of classified documents over the past several years, said it is aiding Snowden in his bid to avoid a return to the United States. Snowden, 30, had fled to Hong Kong, where he revealed two weeks ago that he was the source of leaked National Security Agency documents. Federal prosecutors in Virginia filed espionage charges against him June 14 and had asked Hong Kong to detain him.

"The U.S. is disappointed and disagrees with the determination by Hong Kong authorities not to honor the U.S. request for the arrest of the fugitive, Edward J. Snowden," a Justice Department spokesman said Sunday. The spokesman added that authorities in the United States and Hong Kong had "been in continual contact" since June 10, when the Justice Department learned that Snowden was in the Chinese territory.

WikiLeaks said Snowden was accompanied on his flight to Moscow by Sarah Harrison, who the organization said is a British citizen, journalist and researcher working with the WikiLeaks legal defense team.

Kristinn Hrafnsson, an Icelandic investigative journalist and spokesman for WikiLeaks, said in a phone interview that Snowden would stay overnight in Moscow, which he described as "not a final destination." He declined to say when Snowden would be departing or where his final stop would be.

Hrafnsson said he established contact with Snowden last week while the American was in Hong Kong. Arrangements were made for Harrison to meet Snowden in Hong Kong and accompany him out. Harrison was still with Snowden in Moscow, Hrafnsson said.

"The WikiLeaks legal team and I are interested in preserving Mr. Snowden's rights and protecting him as a person," said Baltasar Garzn, legal director of WikiLeaks and attorney for Julian Assange, the group's founder, who has spent the past year holed up in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London. "What is being done to Mr. Snowden and to Mr. Julian Assange -- for making or facilitating disclosures in the public interest -- is an assault against the people."

U.S. officials said Snowden's passport had been revoked before he left Hong Kong.

But the Interfax news agency, quoting a Russian law enforcement source, said Snowden could continue on his journey from Moscow without a U.S. passport if the country where he was seeking asylum provided him with travel documents. Those documents could include affirmation of refugee status, Interfax reported, or even a passport from the destination country.

(Continued on page 2)

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)