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.


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The apparent cooperation of the Russian government in Snowden's attempt to avoid extradition to the United States outraged some members of Congress.

"What's infuriating here is (President Vladimir) Putin of Russia aiding and abetting Snowden's escape," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said on CNN's "State of the Union."

"The bottom line is very simple," Schumer said. "Allies are supposed to treat each other in decent ways, and Putin always seems almost eager to put a finger in the eye of the United States, whether it is Syria, Iran and now, of course, with Snowden. That's not how allies should treat one another, and I think it will have serious consequences for the United States-Russia relationship."

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., agreed that Sunday's events call "into question what kind of relationship we ever have had with China and Russia. We pretend that everything is hunky-dory when it is not. It isn't with China. It isn't with Russia. It certainly isn't with Cuba, with Venezuela nor with Ecuador."

She added: "These are countries that violate press freedoms every day. And yet (Snowden)'s seeking political asylum in those very countries where . . . if he were to pull a Snowden in these countries, they'd jail him immediately."

Hong Kong's government said that the U.S. request for a warrant for Snowden's arrest "did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law" and that it had asked for "additional information."

"As the HKSAR 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.

A senior Justice Department official disputed that claim. "The request met the requirements of the agreement," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "They came back to us late Friday with additional questions, and we were in the process of responding. Obviously, this raises concerns for us, and we will continue to discuss this with the authorities there."

The United States had asked Hong Kong to issue a provisional arrest warrant and filed charges against Snowden, including theft, "unauthorized communication of national defense information" and "willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person."

If Snowden is relocating to Ecuador, he will have limited travel options. There are no direct flights from Moscow to Quito, and many would-be layover destinations would probably heed Washington's request to detain him. One likely exception would be Havana. There are direct flights from Moscow to Havana five days a week, including Mondays, and a direct flight from Havana to Quito on Fridays.

Patino, the Ecuadoran foreign minister, recently said Quito would be willing to consider an asylum claim by Snowden. Speaking at a news conference in London after visiting Assange last Monday, Patino suggested that his nation would approve such a request.

Authorities in Ecuador would weigh a petition "responsibly, just like we did so in Mr. Assange's case," he said during the news conference at the Ecuadoran Embassy.

Assange has been unable to leave the Ecuadoran Embassy because Britain has refused to provide him safe passage while he is sought for questioning by Sweden about alleged sex crimes.

Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa has emerged as one of the most vehement critics of U.S. policy in the Western Hemisphere. In 2011, his administration expelled the American ambassador in Quito to protest a cable released by WikiLeaks that alleged the Ecuadoran police force was rife with corruption.

The extradition treaty between the United States and Ecuador, signed in 1872, states that offenses of "a political character" do not warrant extradition -- much like the U.S. agreement with Hong Kong.

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