This story broke while most of us were sleeping and the events are moving quickly this morning. But in addition to Greenwald at The Guardian and Reuters, we’re seeing confirmation from ABC news and CNN is running with it, so this looks pretty legit as of this writing. Edward Snowden has left Hong Kong on a jet bound for Russia.
Edward Snowden left for Moscow on Sunday and his final destination may be Cuba, Ecuador, Iceland or Venezuela, according to various reports. The move is bound to infuriate Washington, wherever he ends up.
Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted a source at the Aeroflot airline as saying there was a ticket in Snowden’s name for a Moscow-Cuba flight. Itar-Tass cited a source as saying Snowden would fly from Havana to the Venezuelan capital, Caracas.
The South China Morning Post said his final destination may be Ecuador or Iceland.
How did he slip out of Hong Kong with the entire world watching? Well, apparently it wasn’t really much of a trick at all, because Hong Kong essentially just let him go. Again, this is very early reporting coming out, but this is allegedly the dispatch from Hong Kong to the United States, showing up in a few sources.
The release is particularly interesting for a few reasons. First, the statement that Snowden left the country, “on his own accord” and through, “a lawful and normal channel.” Hong Kong is going to great lengths to give the appearance that they were simply crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s. They claim that our request to detain Snowden, “did not fully comply with Hong Kong law,” so there was no avenue to arrest or detain him. Of course, in reality, we’re talking about Hong Kong here. If they were really interested, they could have snapped him up and tossed him in a cell on little more basis than simply not liking the look on his face. At least a hint at the reason for their actions might be found in the final paragraph.
Meanwhile, the HKSAR Government has formally written to the US Government requesting clarification on earlier reports about the hacking of computer systems in Hong Kong by US Government agencies. The HKSAR Government will continue to follow up on the matter so as to protect the legal rights of the people of Hong Kong.
Why include that in a release which is ostensibly a response to a request for the issuance of an arrest warrant and an update on Snowden’s status? Seems like a pretty deliberate thumb in the eye to me.
As to Snowden’s destination, ABC is confirming that the flight Snowden is on is heading for Russia, and then to Cuba on Monday. However, Greenwald is already making a point of saying that’s not the whole story.
The fact that a person flies to City X does not mean that is their intended ultimate destination.
As noted above, the current guesses (and that’s all they are) regarding Snowden’s final destination include Venezuela and Iceland. But this could get even more interesting if Vlad Putin puts on his shirt and stops shining his Superbowl ring long enough to take an interest. Should he wish to insert Russia into this story, he can stop that plane with one phone call and make Snowden a “guest” in his country. That would complicate matters considerably and take it to the next level. Plus, CNN is reporting, along with ABC, that Snowden is flying in the company of a Wikileaks representative, who may or may not be involved in funding his globetrotting activities. Yet another fly in the ointment. Should be more updates later, so stay tuned.
Program Note: Your regularly scheduled Sunday morning talking heads open thread will be coming up in the next slot, albeit a bit later than usual.
UPDATE: (Jazz) It’s probably going to be a fairly uncomfortable morning for White House National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, who had this to say just last night:
“We believe that the charges presented, present a good case for extradition under the treaty, the extradition treaty between the United States and Hong Kong,” Donilon told CBS Radio News White House correspondent Mark Knoller. “Hong Kong has been a historically good partner of the United States in law enforcement matters, and we expect them to comply with the treaty in this case.”
UPDATE: (Jazz) Reports coming in that Snowden has landed in Moscow and was “whisked off” in a black car. Destination unknown, but the Russians aren’t commenting yet.