NSA leaker Edward Snowden not on board flight | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 24.06.2013
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NSA leaker Edward Snowden not on board flight

A plane has left Moscow for Havana with no sign of Edward Snowden on-board. Early Monday, the White House asked Russia to "look at all options available" to extradite Snowden to the US to face espionage charges.

Aeroflot representatives told news agencies that former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden did not board the flight for which he had a ticket from Moscow to Cuba. Reporters on the plane also said they had not seen him.

Russia's Interfax news agency cited a law enforcement source that confirmed Snowden had not taken the flight.

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Snowden absent on flight

The former Central Intelligence Agency employee who later worked for Booz Allen Hamilton as a subcontractor at the NSA has been on the run since leaking information about US surveillance activities to the news media a couple of weeks ago. Among other things, the documents leaked by Snowden included an insight into a US government program known as Prism, which gives the NSA access to vast amounts of Internet data such as emails, or social media websites.

'Detrimental'

Earlier on Monday, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden had said that the US registered objections to authorities in Hong Kong and China at the decision to let the former NSA contractor flee. Many analysts call it highly unlikely that the Hong Kong government allowed Snowden to leave the semiautonomous territory without consulting the Chinese government.

"Such behavior is detrimental to US-Hong Kong and US-China bilateral relations," Hayden said.

Speaking from New Delhi later in the day, US Secretary of State John Kerry said it would be "deeply troubling" if either China or Russia had advance notice of Snowden's travel plans.

"It would be deeply troubling obviously if they had adequate notice and notwithstanding that they make a decision to wilfully ignore that and not live by the standards of the law," Kerry said. "I would urge [Russia] to live by the standards of the law because that's in the interest of everybody."

Also on Monday, China announced that it had contacted US officials over revelations from Snowden that an intelligence agency may have hacked into computers there. He claimed to have evidence that the NSA had spied on the websites of Chinese telecommunications companies and a major university.

A spokesman for the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks, which claims to be assisting Snowden in his efforts to avoid extradition to the US, confirmed that he planned to travel to Ecuador to seek asylum.

Foreign minister speaks

Ecuador has already given refuge to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has spent the past year at the country's embassy in London in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning over alleged sex crimes. Ecuador's foreign minister said on Monday that the country would look into Snowden's request for asylum.

"We will make a decision ... We are analyzing it," Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino told reporters, speaking from Vietnam.

Patino said Ecuador was considering a request from the US related to Snowden, which it received from the US envoy in Quito.

"We will consider the position of the US government and we will take a decision in due course in line with the [Ecuadorean] constitution, the laws, international politics and sovereignty," he said.

Patino said Ecuador was in "respectful" contact with Russia regarding Snowden, and that his human rights were the most important consideration in the matter. He said Snowden's allegations of US surveillance were a rights abuse against the whole world.

mkg,dr/ipj (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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