Snowden evades US extradition request
Hong Kong allows NSA whistleblower to board plane for Russia
Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who disclosed details of US intelligence operations, left Hong Kong for Russia today, despite a US government petition for his extradition, Reuters reported.
The Hong Kong government said the filed papers "did not fully comply with legal requirements" and that there was "no legal basis" for barring Snowden from travel.
Free-speech activist website WikiLeaks claimed it helped Snowden find "political asylum in a democratic country". WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is currently residing in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London in fear of arrest and deportation to the US. The South China Morning Post reported that whistleblower Snowden's final destination may be Ecuador or Iceland.
Snowden made headlines earlier this month when he handed over documents to media organisations detailing a number of projects conducted by US and British intelligence services. Revelations included that of Prism, an NSA project that focused on the forced recruitment of US Internet companies such as Google and Facebook and handover of select data.
Also accused was Britain's communications monitoring agency GCHQ, which allegedly spied on the email accounts and phone conversations of senior foreign delegates during two 2009 G20 summits in London.
Another report by the South China Morning Post referred to US hacking of Chinese mobile telephone companies and China's Tsinghua University.
The US charges against Snowden are: unauthorised release of national defence information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence to an unauthorised person, contrary to the US Espionage Act. Snowden is also charged with theft of US government property.
Hong Kong has been a special administrative region (SAR) of China since 1997, and in principle reports to Beijing on matters of state. However, Reuters reported last week that legal experts thought it unlikely that the Chinese government would interfere in the extradition process.