Thursday, December 12, 2013
By Maria Danilova and Sean Yoong / The Associated Press
(Continued from page 1)
Transit passengers eat at a cafe with a TV screen with a news program showing a report on Edward Snowden, in the background, at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow Wednesday.
Hordes of journalists armed with laptops and photo and video cameras have camped in and around the airport, looking for Snowden or anyone who may have seen or talked to him. But after talking to passengers, airport personnel, waiters and shop clerks, the press corps has discovered no sign of the leaker.
Russian news agencies, citing unidentified sources, reported that Snowden was staying at a hotel in the transit terminal, but there was no sign of him at the zone's only hotel, Air Express. It offers several dozen capsule-style spaces that passengers can rent for a few hours to catch some sleep. Hotel staff refused to say whether Snowden was staying there or had stayed there in the past.
"We only saw lots of journalists, that's for sure," said Maxim, a waiter at the Shokoladnitsa diner not far from Air Express, who declined to give his last name because he wasn't allowed to talk to reporters.
The departure and transit area is huge and has dozens of small rooms, some labeled "authorized personnel only," where someone could potentially seek refuge with support from airport staff or security personnel. And security forces or police patrolling the area can easily whisk a person out of this area through back doors or corridors.
There are also a few VIP lounge areas, accessible to business-class passengers or people willing to pay $20 per hour. Snowden was not seen in those areas.
Sheremetyevo's press service declined to comment on Snowden's whereabouts.
Hong Kong officials said they allowed Snowden to leave for Moscow because the U.S. government got his middle name wrong in documents it submitted seeking his arrest. Hong Kong immigration records listed Snowden's middle name as Joseph, but the U.S. government used the name James in some documents and referred to him only as Edward J. Snowden in others, Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen said. The U.S. also did not provide his passport number and did not respond to requests for clarification, Yuen said.
Meanwhile, WikiLeaks gave a terse update on Snowden, saying he was "well" in a post on Twitter.
WikiLeaks says one of its staffers, Sarah Harrison, is traveling with Snowden, but the statement gave no indication if the update came from her, from Snowden, or from some other source.
WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson did not immediately return a call and a text seeking further comment.
In a conference call with reporters on Monday, Assange said that he was limited in what he could say about Snowden due to security concerns. He denied reports that Snowden was spending his time at the airport being debriefed by Russian intelligence officers.