Just days after issuing a warrant for the arrest and extradition of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, it appears he is now on the run attempting to gain asylum within a nation that has less than great relations with the United States: Ecuador.
The U.S. Justice Department in an attempt to seal off all viable escape routes, have revoked Snowden’s passport, and are highly angry at regions that have continued to allow Snowden to pass through without capture.
After believing they had an agreement for extradition in place with Hong Kong, where Snowden was located, officials there made no attempt to prevent the whistleblower from leaving via air transport, and landing at his next destination, Moscow, Russia.
After spending the night in Moscow at the airport, Snowden was expected to board a flight for Cuba, which would then go to Venezuela, and finally arriving in Ecuador, where the foreign minister for the country, Ricardo Patino acknowledged that his government received a request from Snowden for political asylum against the United States.
His actions have been received with outrage from several members of the U.S. Congress. “He goes to the very countries that have, at best, very tense relationships with the United States,” said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, (R-Fla.), adding that she feared Snowden would trade more U.S. secrets for asylum. “This is not going to play out well for the national security interests of the United States.”
Snowden is being assisted with his pursuit of asylum by none other than the largest anti-secrecy agency in the world, WikiLeaks, who also helped Julian Lassange escape extradition back to the United States by finding him a safe haven in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, England.
Snowden is wanted by the United States government for exposing highly sensitive government surveillance secrets and programs to media outlets The Washington Post and The Guardian. The programs included government operations of collecting and documenting online usage data and phone activities—supposedly only for protection against terrorist activities from American citizens.
The U.S. Justice Department has stated that they have been in contact with law enforcement agencies with the nations that Snowden has and is expected to be traveling through, explaining the need for him to be returned to the United States to face felony charges.
These requests have mostly been ignored by nations that don’t have the same view of the United States as many of the U.S.’ allies. President Barack Obama has been updated as to the pursuit of Snowden as new information becomes available.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has come under fire for allowing Snowden to leave his country, and U.S. Government officials have claimed there would be dire consequences for his failure to work with the United States in returning Snowden home.
New York Senator Chuck Schumer (D) added “Allies are supposed to treat each other in decent ways, and Putin always seems almost eager to put a finger in the eye of the United States…” “That’s not how allies should treat one another, and I think it will have serious consequences for the United States-Russia relationship.”
The Senate Intelligence Committee believes that Snowden is not done sharing sensitive U.S. intelligence with others as well, believing he still has in his possession, over 200 additional sensitive documents. Homeland Security Committee member Representative Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) stated “I am very worried about what else he has.” Until Edward Snowden is either turned away by a country and returned to the United States, or captured by U.S. law enforcement, the “catch me if you can” game will continue.