11:07 AM

NSA Leaker Snowden On The Run

U.S. files charges against former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who is seeking asylum in Ecuador. To date, Hong Kong and Moscow have declined to detain him.

Snowden's Sunday travel from Hong Kong to Moscow followed the State Department issuing a request to "Western Hemisphere" countries through which Snowden might travel, the BBC reported. "The U.S. is advising these governments that Snowden is wanted on felony charges, and as such should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel, other than is necessary to return him to the United States," a U.S. state department official reportedly said.

Why wasn't Snowden detained in Hong Kong? Notably, the territory of China has a "surrender" agreement with the United States, which is different than extradition, which involves agreements between sovereign states. Furthermore, Hong Kong was informed that on June 15 the U.S issued a provisional arrest warrant for Snowden. On June 17, the government of Hong Kong acknowledged receipt of the U.S. government's request to detain Snowden, and two days later said the matter was under review.

Sunday, however, Hong Kong officials said Snowden departed "on his own accord for a third country through a lawful and normal channel." They declined to prevent him from traveling, saying that Washington's request to detain him was incomplete, and that there was no legal basis for doing so. According to the U.S. State Department, Snowden's U.S. passport was revoked Saturday, although authorities in Hong Kong may have been unaware of that revocation.

U.S. officials reacted with incredulity that Snowden hadn't been detained by Hong Kong authorities. "I had actually thought that China would see this as an opportunity to improve relations and extradite him to the United States," said Senate Intelligence committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein on CBS television. "China clearly had a role in this, in my view. I don't think this was just Hong Kong without Chinese acquiescence."

Then again, China may have been making a political statement: Snowden Sunday revealed that the NSA had been hacking into Chinese telecommunications carriers to intercept millions of subscribers' text messages.

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