Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor wanted by the U.S. Department of Justice for espionage, has left Hong Kong on a flight to Russia. What remains unknown is his final destination: is it Venezuela? Cuba? Russia? Ecuador? Margaritaville?
Interfax, the Russian state news agency, quotes a "person familiar with the situation" as saying, “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." But RT has been reporting that Snowden's final destination is Ecuador, the same country that has housed Julian Assange in its London embassy for the past year.
A Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman told a reporter for The Los Angeles Times that Snowden will arrive in Moscow at 5 p.m. today and will be forced to wait at the airport until his flight to Cuba on Monday.
Snowden doesn’t have a Russian visa, and he can’t get outside the transit area of the airport. Even if there is an Interpol warrant for his arrest, of which we are not aware, our law enforcement agencies won’t be able to do that in the transit area.
The spokesman (who echoed comments made by Putin's own spokesman) said that there were no plans to grant Snowden asylum, but suggested they'd probably be willing to let Snowden stay: “The United States and the West in general more than once granted asylum to Russian special services defectors, so if we do it for a change, I don’t think this will seriously harm our relations."
Senator Chuck Schumer, who apparently has nothing better to do on his weekend, told CNN that Russia faces "serious consequences" for allowing Snowden to use its airport to flee. “What’s infuriating here is Prime Minister [Vladimir] Putin of Russia abetting Snowden’s escape."
Perhaps Schumer should have directed his anger towards the U.S. government: a statement issued by the government of Hong Kong explained that Snowden wasn't detained to extradited because America's paperwork wasn't in order:
The US Government earlier on made a request to the HKSAR Government for the issue of a provisional warrant of arrest against Mr Snowden. Since the documents provided by the US Government did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law, the HKSAR Government has requested the US Government to provide additional information so that the Department of Justice could consider whether the US Government's request can meet the relevant legal conditions. As the HKSAR 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 also goes on to "request clarification" from the U.S. about reports that it hacked Hong Kong's computers. Poor Hong Kong.
The Guardian reports that one of Julian Assange's closest advisors, Sarah Harrison, is traveling with Snowden. The report notes that Harrison is a "strange choice" to accompany the fugitive, who was charged on Friday with violating the Espionage Act and for stealing government property, because she "has no legal qualifications or background."
However, other sources have told us that Harrison always carries an extra neck pillow when flying, and doesn't even like soda or pretzels but is happy to order them so you can have double.