Update: Edward Snowden has reportedly landed in Moscow. As yet no confirmation regarding his final destination.
Just two days afer U.S. officials filed a sealed criminal complaint against Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old NSA leaker reportedly left Hong Kong on a flight bound for Moscow. Russia's national airline Aeroflot confirmed that he was on a one-way flight bound for Moscow, but said his final destination could not be confirmed. The move was discouraging for Washington, who had issued a legal request on the "provisional warrant of arrest" for Hong Kong to return him. In the end, the Hong Kong conclused that the request "did not fully comply with the legal requirements" under their own law.
"Russia’s Interfax news agency, citing a “person familiar with the situation,” reported that Mr. Snowden would remain in transit at an airport in Moscow for “several hours” pending an onward flight to Cuba, and would therefore not formally cross the Russian border or be subject to detention. Someone close to Mr. Snowden later told Interfax that he planned to continue on to Caracas, Venezuela.
“He chose such a complex route in the hope that he will not be detained and he will be able to reach his final destination — Venezuela — unhindered,” the person said.
WikiLeaks, the organization that released extensive classified American diplomatic communications three years ago, said in a statement on its Twitter feed that it had “assisted Mr. Snowden’s political asylum in a democratic country, travel papers” and safe exit from Hong Kong, and said in a follow-up Twitter posting that “Mr. Snowden is currently over Russian airspace accompanied by WikiLeaks legal advisers.”
The Aeroflot agent said that Mr. Snowden was traveling with one other person, with the surname Harrison, but the agent declined to release the other traveler’s first name, saying that she did not have the authorization to do so. The closest adviser to Julian Assange, who orchestrated the release of the Wikileaks diplomatic cables three years ago, is named Sarah Harrison, prompting speculation that she was the Harrison on the flight with Mr. Snowden.
His departure from Hong Kong was a setback for the United States, which had been pressing Hong Kong to surrender him to American law enforcement officials. The Hong Kong government said on Sunday, in its first detailed statement about Mr. Snowden, that the United States had made a legal request for the issue of a provisional arrest warrant against Mr. Snowden, but that the Hong Kong government had concluded that the request “did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law.”'
Snowden is said to be "carrying four laptop computers with a cornucopia of American intelligence documents."
China's state-run Xinhua news agency said in a commentary late Sunday morning, before news of his flight from Hong Kong, that Snowden’s disclosures had undermined claims from Washington that the Chinese government was guilty of widespread computer hacking.
His claims “demonstrate that the United States, which has long been trying to play innocent as a victim of cyber attacks, has turned out to be the biggest villain in our age,” the commentary said.
Yet another report from Xinhua news agency blasted the U.S. mainstream media for its coverage of Snowden's NSA surveillance leaks:
"Ironically, quite a few mainstream US media outlets have given wide coverage to people like former vice-president Dick Cheney, former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden, and National Intelligence director James Clapper, while the surveillance program's critics can be heard only on channels such as Russia Today, Al Jazeera, and Democracy Now."
"Many mainstream media outlets have spent more time and shown more interest in digging into Snowden's personal life than challenging whether the NSA program is a violation of privacy and civil liberties, which should be the main debate.
That Snowden said he did not believe he would get a fair trial in the US should not come as a surprise. The national security campaign and patriotic brainwashing going on in the US since 2001 mean that he would be sentenced way before a trial began.
Snowden said he landed in Hong Kong not to hide from justice, but to expose a grave crime. He also said that the greatest honor for an American is to be called a "traitor" by Dick Cheney. That is the kind of guts the mainstream media need to cover Snowden's case in a national security state."