Monday, June 24, 2013
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden
The intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden will on Monday attempt to complete an audacious escape to the relative safety of South America after his departure from Hong Kong escalated already fraught diplomatic relations between the United States and China.
In a move that appeared to bewilder the White House, Snowden was allowed to flee Hong Kong on Sunday morning and head to Moscow on a commercial flight despite a formal request from the US to have the 30-year-old detained and extradited to face espionage charges for a series of leaks about the National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain's spy centre, GCHQ.
, Snowden disappeared again, leaving the
aircraft without being spotted, but being pursued by the Ecuadorian ambassador,
Patricio Chávez, amid speculation that he will fly to Moscow on Monday, possibly via Quito . Cuba
Snowden has asked for political asylum in Ecuador, the country that has also given shelter to the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, at its embassy in
In a statement on Sunday night, WikiLeaks, which has been providing legal and logistical help to Snowden in recent days, said: "He is bound for the
via a safe route for the purposes of
asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisers from
WikiLeaks." Republic of Ecuador
"Mr Snowden requested that WikiLeaks use its legal expertise and experience to secure his safety. Once Mr Snowden arrives in
his request will be formally
processed."Snowden's escape from Ecuador Hong Kong infuriated US politicians, while focused on condemning China over his latest disclosures, which
suggested the NSA hadhacked into Chinese mobile phone
companies to access millions of private text messages. Washington
Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said: "I know nothing."
, congressmen fulminated at the array of
powers suddenly ranged against the Washington . Mike Rogers, chairman of the House
permanent select committee on intelligence, railed at Russian president
Vladimir Putin over his attitude to Snowden, suggesting an ulterior motive.
"I'm sure they would love to have a little bit of coffee and some
conversation with Mr Snowden," US said. Rogers
The Democratic senator Chuck Schumer added: "The bottom line is very simple: 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 each other and I think it will have serious consequences for the United States-Russia relationship."
Yet the admission that Snowden had been allowed to leave was made five hours after he had boarded an Aeroflot flight to
, and the discovery of the oversight
came two days after the papers had been formally sent. Moscow
Snowden, a former NSA contractor, had previously said he would stay in
Kong and fight
for his freedom through the courts. He had been at a safe house after giving an
interview to the Guardian revealing himself as the source who leaked top-secret
Since then, Snowden has been in touch with WikiLeaks, which revealed on Sunday that it had been instrumental in helping him find safe passage out of
Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald from the Ecuadorian embassy in
, Julian Assange said: "Owing to
WikiLeaks' own circumstances, we have developed significant expertise in
international asylum and extradition law, associated diplomacy and the
practicalities in these matters. I have great personal sympathy for Ed
Snowden's position. WikiLeaks absolutely supports his decision to blow the
whistle on the mass surveillance of the world's population by the London government." US
On Saturday, the South China Morning Post disclosed details of new documents from Snowden, which suggested the NSA had hacked into Chinese phone companies.
For the second time in 10 days General Keith Alexander, the head of theNSA, had to defend the agency's activities, and he did not deny the latest allegations.
"To say that we're willfully just collecting all sorts of data would give you the impression that we're just trying to canvas the whole world," Alexander said.
"The fact is what we're trying to do is get the information our nation needs, the foreign intelligence, that primary mission. The case that Snowden has brought up is in defending this nation from a terrorist attack. I'm confident that we're following the laws that our country has in doing what we do. We have a set of laws that guide how NSA acts; we follow those laws. We have tremendous oversight by all three portions of the government: the courts, Congress and the administration."
's official Xinhua news agency said the
revelations had "put China in a really awkward situation". Washington
"They demonstrate that the
, which has long been trying to play
innocent as a victim of cyber attacks, has turned out to be the biggest villain
in our age," it said. United States
The fall-out from Snowden's leaks continued to stir the surveillance debate in the
, with Shami Chakrabarti, the director
of UK , insisting David Cameron or the foreign
secretary, William Hague, should address MPs. Liberty
On Friday, the Guardian revealed GCHQ has put taps on some of the cables that carry internet traffic in and out of the
, and has developed a storage system - codenamed Tempora - that can keep the information for up
to 30 days. UK
The programme, which has not been disclosed before, allows GCHQ to keep a vast amount of emails and telephone calls for analysis.
Chakrabarti said: "The authorities appear to be kidding themselves with a very generous interpretation of the law that cannot stand with article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
"Revelations of blanket surveillance of the British public on such a scale amount to a huge scandal even by the standards of recent years. At the very least, the prime minister or foreign secretary should appear before the House of Commons immediately to explain how this was justified without clear legal authority or parliamentary debate."
GCHQ has said it complies fully with British law.
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