Hong Kong Lets Snowden Slip Away to Russia--En Route to Cuba? Update: Ecuador
News agencies report that Edward Snowden, the former contractor who exposed National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance programs, left Hong Kong early Sunday, en route to Russia. His final destination, according to Russian sources cited by the Wall Street Journal, is the communist dictatorship of Cuba, though activists from Wikileaks asserted that Snowden is traveling via Russia with Wikileaks legal advisors to a "democratic" country.
Hong Kong, which has an extradition treaty with the United States, declined to comply with a request by the U.S. government that it detain Snowden, who was formally charged with espionage and theft in federal court in Virginia on Friday. Authorities in Hong Kong indicated that the request failed to meet legal requirements, according to the Journal. Earlier, Russia had indicated that it was considering granting Snowden asylum.
China administers Hong Kong, though the former British colony enjoys considerable autonomy. Snowden revealed several hacking efforts by the U.S. against Chinese institutions, fueling public outrage in China and allowing China to brush off U.S. concerns about Chinese cyberattacks and espionage against U.S. defense agencies. Snowden's flight to Hong Kong raised suspicions that he might, in fact, be a foreign agent.
Update: In a statement released at 8:00 a.m. EDT on Sunday, Wikileaks said: "Mr Edward Snowden, the American whistleblower who exposed evidence of a global surveillance regime conducted by US and UK intelligence agencies, has left Hong Kong legally. He is bound for a democratic nation via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisors from WikiLeaks."
Update 2: Snowden has requested asylum in Ecuador, according to Agence France-Presse: