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Snowden stays elusive

June 24, 2013

US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden remains elusive after missing his aircraft booking from Moscow to Cuba. Germany, meanwhile, wants answers from Britain on an alleged spy program called "Tempora."

People look the passenger plane, flight SU 150 to Havana, docking to a boarding bridge at the Moscow Sheremetyevo airport on June 24, 2013. US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden was set to fly out of Russia today by flight SU 150 to Havana to seek asylum in Ecuador, as Washington demanded Moscow hand over the fugitive to face espionage charges at home. Photo:KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images

Aeroflot flight SU150 left Moscow on Monday bound for Cuba - apparently without Edward Snowden, the fugitive intelligence whistleblower, who had a seat on the flight reserved in his name.

Washington claimed that the American, who it wants for exposing a huge US Internet surveillance program several weeks ago, remained in Russia and again demanded his extradition.

Meanwhile, Germany sent questions to the British embassy in Berlin on an alleged British eavesdropping program called "Tempora", which had also been unveiled by Snowden. According to two German media outlets, it tapped telephone and data traffic on a glass-fiber undersea cable linking northern Germany, Britain and the United States.

US program secret since 2004

On Monday, former US vice president Dick Cheney told a forum in Washington that he had briefed Republican and Democrat Congress representatives in 2004 on a program set up by the National Security Agency, and said they told him they wanted it kept secret.

The news agency Associated Press quoted Cheney as saying the NSA program had delivered "phenomenal results" in preventing terrorist attacks in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington by al-Qaeda hijackers.

"There was a time when it was a very, very close hold [secret]," Cheney said, referring apparently to Prism, one of the schemes operated by the NSA. "Unfortunately it's become public."

Mysterious whereabouts

US presses for extradition

The spokesman for President Barack Obama's administration, Jay Carney, demanded on Monday the Russia use "all options" to locate and extradite Snowden back to the US, adding that Snowden probably remained in Russia.

Carney also slammed China for allowing Snowden to fly from its semi-autonomous territory Hong Kong on Sunday to Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport, where Snowden spent the night in a transit zone hotel.

"'That decision unquestionably has a negative impact on the US-China relationship," Carney said.

Ecuador receives asylum request

Visiting Hanoi, Vietnam, on Monday, Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said his country had received an asylum request from Snowden and had been in touch with Russian authorities.

Patino said Ecuador would make its asylum decision based on the principles of "freedom of expression and with the security of citizens around the world."

Visiting New Delhi, US Secretary of State John Kerry warned that China and Russia risk damaging relations with the US.

"He is an indicted individual, indicted on three felony counts," Kerry said, referring to Snowden. "Evidently he places himself above the law, having betrayed his country."

Germany demands answers from Britain

The claim made last week by the Guardian newspaper that Snowden had also exposed a British intelligence service scheme called "Tempora," prompted the German government on Monday to send a list of questions to Britain's embassy in Berlin.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said Berlin wanted explanations "on what legal basis and to which extent" surveillance had been conducted.

The Guardian said documents from Snowden showed that Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) began "Tempora" 18 months ago to tap and store world phone calls and Internet data traffic for 30 days "without any form of public acknowledgement or debate."

But Seibert said an operation called "Tempora" was unknown to the German government.

Undersea cable 'tapped'

The northern German public broadcaster NDR and the Munich-based newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung reported late on Monday that "Tempora" tapped into a 15,000-kilometer-long (9320 miles) undersea cable called TAT-14, running between northern Germany via Britain to the United States.

Veteran opposition Greens party parliamentarian Hans-Christian Ströbele demand that Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government disclose "how much and which data of German citizens and companies have been secretly accessed by the Anglo-American intelligence services NSA and GCHQ, for example by tapping glass fiber cables?"

A senior German interior ministry official, Ulrich Weinbrenner, told a Bundestag committee that it was known "in general form" that programs of these types existed.

ipj/rg (AFP, Reuters, dpa)