Thursday, April 17, 2014
By KATHY LALLY, ANTHONY FAIOLA and JIA LYNN YANG The Washington Post
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.
The Associated Press
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Despite U.S. officials' insistence that Snowden's passport was revoked Saturday, the Hong Kong government said Sunday that he left "on his own accord for a third country."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.
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