WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — The White House believes that former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden is still in Moscow.
During Monday’s White House briefing, Press Secretary Jay Carney says “it is our assumption” that Snowden remains in Russia. The Associated Press reports that Snowden was not on an Aeroflot flight out of Moscow to Havana, Cuba.
Snowden fled Hong Kong for Russia Sunday after United States officials sought extradition of Snowden from Hong Kong. Carney called it “particularly troubling” that Hong Kong would allow Snowden to leave.
“We are just not buying that this was a technical decision by a Hong Kong immigration official,” Carney said during the briefing, hinting that Chinese government might have involved itself in the matter.
A one-page criminal complaint against Snowden was unsealed Friday in federal court in Alexandria, Va., part of the Eastern District of Virginia where his former employer, government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, is headquartered, in McLean. He is charged with unauthorized communication of national defense information, willful communication of classified communications intelligence information and theft of government property. The first two are under the Espionage Act and each of the three crimes carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison on conviction.
The complaint is dated June 14, five days after Snowden’s name first surfaced as the person who had leaked to the news media that the NSA, in two highly classified surveillance programs, gathered telephone and Internet records to ferret out terror plots.
Snowden is reportedly seeking asylum in Ecuador. Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said that his government is considering Snowden’s asylum request.
“The government of Ecuador has maintained a respectful diplomatic contact with the government of Russia and has informed it that Ecuador is considering the petition for asylum on the part of Mr. Snowden,” Patino said.
Snowden has been on the run since leaking top-secret NSA surveillance programs to The Guardian and The Washington Post.
One program collects billions of U.S. phone records. The second gathers audio, video, email, photographic and Internet search usage of foreign nationals overseas, and probably some Americans in the process, who use major Internet service providers, such as Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Yahoo.
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