The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Nation & World

June 23, 2013

Hong Kong says Snowden has left for third country

HONG KONG — A former National Security Agency contractor wanted by the United States for revealing highly classified surveillance programs has been allowed to leave for a "third country" because a U.S. extradition request did not fully comply with Hong Kong law, the territory's government said Sunday.

Hong Kong's government did not identify the country, but the South China Morning Post, which has been in contact with Edward Snowden, reported that he was on a plane for Moscow, but that Russia was not his final destination.

Snowden, who has been in hiding in Hong Kong for several weeks since he revealed information on the highly classified spy programs, has talked of seeking asylum in Iceland.

However, Russia's ITAR-Tass news agency cited an unidentified Aeroflot official as saying Snowden would fly from Moscow to Cuba on Monday and then on to Caracas, Venezuela.

The White House had no immediate comment about Snowden's departure, which came a day after the United States made a formal request for his extradition and gave a pointed warning to Hong Kong against delaying the process of returning him to face trial in the U.S.

The Hong Kong government said in a statement that Snowden left "on his own accord for a third country through a lawful and normal channel."

It acknowledged the U.S. extradition request, but said U.S. documentation did not "fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law." It said additional information was requested from Washington, but since the Hong Kong government "has yet to have sufficient information to process the request for provisional warrant of arrest, there is no legal basis to restrict Mr. Snowden from leaving Hong Kong."

The statement said Hong Kong had informed the U.S. of Snowden's departure. It added that it wanted more information about alleged hacking of computer systems in Hong Kong by U.S. government agencies which Snowden had revealed.

The anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks took credit for helping Snowden leave Hong Kong, saying on Twitter, "Mr. Snowden is currently over Russian airspace accompanied by WikiLeaks legal advisors."

Snowden's departure eliminates a possible fight between Washington and Beijing at a time when China is trying to deflect U.S. accusations that it carries out extensive surveillance of American government and commercial operations. Hong Kong, a former British colony, has a high degree of autonomy and is granted rights and freedoms not seen on mainland China, but under the city's mini constitution Beijing is allowed to intervene in matters involving defense and diplomatic affairs.

Hong Kong has an extradition treaty with the U.S., but the document has some exceptions, including for crimes deemed political.

The Obama administration on Saturday warned Hong Kong against delaying Snowden's extradition, with White House national security adviser Tom Donilon saying in an interview with CBS News, "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."

Snowden's departure came as the South China Morning Post released new allegations from Snowden that U.S. hacking targets in China included the nation's cellphone companies and two universities hosting extensive Internet traffic hubs.

He told the newspaper that "the NSA does all kinds of things like hack Chinese cellphone companies to steal all of your SMS data." It added that Snowden said he had documents to support the hacking allegations, but the report did not identify the documents. It said he spoke to the newspaper in a June 12 interview.

With a population of more than 1.3 billion, China has massive cellphone companies. China Mobile is the world's largest mobile network carrier with 735 million subscribers, followed by China Unicom with 258 million users and China Telecom with 172 million users.

Snowden said Tsinghua University in Beijing and Chinese University in Hong Kong, home of some of the country's major Internet traffic hubs, were targets of extensive hacking by U.S. spies this year. He said the NSA was focusing on so-called "network backbones" in China, through which enormous amounts of Internet data passes.

The Chinese government has not commented on the extradition request and Snowden's departure, but its state-run media have used Snowden's allegations to poke back at Washington after the U.S. had spent the past several months pressuring China on its international spying operations.

A commentary published Sunday by the official Xinhua News Agency said Snowden's disclosures of U.S. spying activities in China have "put Washington in a really awkward situation."

"Washington should come clean about its record first. It owes ... an explanation to China and other countries it has allegedly spied on," it said. "It has to share with the world the range, extent and intent of its clandestine hacking programs."

1
Text Only
Nation & World
  • Missouri executes inmate for 1993 farm slaying

    Missouri executed an inmate early Wednesday only a few miles from the farm where prosecutors say he orchestrated the 1993 killing of a couple whose cows he wanted to steal.

    April 23, 2014

  • Pro-Russian insurgents hold US journalist captive

    Pro-Russian gunmen in eastern Ukraine admitted on Wednesday that they are holding an American journalist, saying he was suspected of unspecified "bad activities."

    April 23, 2014

  • Beautiful Bulldogs.jpg Lucey is tops in Iowa's 'Beautiful Bulldog' event

    Lucey is a slobbering 18-month-old pooch whose human family dreams of making her a therapy dog.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sherpas leave Everest; some expeditions nix climbs

    Sherpa guides packed up their tents and left Mount Everest's base camp Wednesday in an unprecedented walkout to honor 16 of their colleagues who were killed last week in the deadliest avalanche ever recorded on the mountain, climbers said.

    April 23, 2014

  • FBI investigates suspected serial child molester

    The FBI asked for the public's help Tuesday to identify at least 90 potential victims of a suspected child predator who worked at 10 American and other international schools abroad for more than four decades before committing suicide last month in Minnesota.

    April 22, 2014

  • Australia signals deeper search for Malaysian jet

    Australia may use more powerful sonar equipment that can delve deeper beneath the Indian Ocean in the hunt for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet as the prime minister said Wednesday that failure to find any clue in the most likely crash site would not spell the end of the search.

    April 22, 2014

  • Tech boom presents new wrinkles for Wrigley Field

    During a recent game at Wrigley Field, John Weber was using a pencil and scorecard to expertly track the game between his hometown Cubs and the Pittsburgh Pirates. The 86-year-old retired transit worker figures he is an increasingly rare kind of baseball fan.

    April 22, 2014

  • Comcast 1Q earns surge on upbeat NBC results

    Comcast Corp. said Tuesday that its first-quarter net income rose by 30 percent as ad revenue surged at broadcast network NBC, helped by the Winter Olympics in Sochi and Jimmy Fallon's elevation as host of "The Tonight Show."

    April 22, 2014

  • General Motors seeks more protection from suits

     General Motors Co. has filed suit in a U.S. bankruptcy court asking a judge to protect the company from legal claims for actions that took place before it emerged from bankruptcy in 2009.

    April 22, 2014

  • Disney's 'It's a Small World' turns 50 The timeless Disney tune "It's a Small World" that wafts through our memories from past theme park vacations turns 50 this year.

    April 21, 2014