Moscow: ‘Snoopgate’ whistleblower Edward Snowden has reportedly stayed overnight in Moscow on his way to Ecuador from Hong Kong in an attempt to evade extradition.

The former NSA contractor has also reportedly sought asylum in Ecuador, which is led by President Rafael Correa, an outspoken leftist, populist and critic of the United States.

Reacting to Snowden’s stay in Moscow, US Congressman Mike Rogers said that it would not surprise him if the Russian President knew about the travel plans of Snowden.
    
Computer technician Edward Snowden, who leaked the secretive internet and phone surveillance programs of the US, is wanted in the United States on felony charges.
    
"As is routine and consistent with US regulations, persons with felony arrest warrants are subject to having their passport revoked. Such a revocation does not affect citizenship status," the State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said.
    
"Persons wanted on felony charges, such as Snowden, should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel, other than is necessary to return him to the United States," Psaki said in a statement after Snowden fled from Hong Kong to Moscow and the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister said that he has sought asylum in his country.
    
"Because of the Privacy Act, we cannot comment on Snowden's passport specifically," Psaki said amidst news reports that Snowden has reached Moscow and that he might be headed to Ecuador through Havana.
    
According to a federal complaint, filed last week in the US District Court of Virginia, but unsealed on Friday, Snowden has been charged with espionage, theft of government data and conveying classified information to unauthorized person.
    
If extradited to the United States and convicted in the court of law, he faces 10 years of imprisonment on each of these charges.
    
The documents leaked by Snowden, first published in The Guardian and The Washington Post, revealed details of the secretive programs of the US's National Security Agency about getting access to phone records of millions of Americans and getting internet usage details of suspected foreign terrorists.
    
Obama Administration has defended the program arguing that this has helped foil more than 50 terrorist plots in 20 countries, which is understood to including India.
    
However, this has created an outrage among a number of countries like Germany and India, which have strongly raised the issue with the United States.
    
"He betrayed the trust and confidence we had in him. This was an individual with top-secret clearance, whose duty it was to administer these networks. He betrayed that confidence and stole some of our secrets," Gen Keith Alexander, Commander of US Cyber Command and Director of National Security Agency, told the ABC news in an interview.
    
"We will continue to discuss this matter with Hong Kong and pursue relevant law enforcement cooperation with other countries where Snowden may be attempting to travel," the Justice Department spokesperson Nanda Chitre added.

Snowden requests asylum in Ecuador

The global search game for Edward Snowden took a dramatic turn yesterday when the man wanted on US espionage charges fled Hong Kong and arrived in Russia, only to have requested for asylum in Ecuador.

According to media reports, Snowden arrived at a hotel near Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. A car bearing the country’s flag was also seen outside the airport.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino on his Twitter feed said that the whistleblower has sought refuge in the country, the same one as Julian Assange has sought asylum in. Russian police had earlier said they had no plans to detain him upon arrival, after Chinese authorities said he had left Hong Kong legally despite a formal extradition request being lodged by Washington.

Earlier, authorities in Hong Kong said, “Edward Snowden left Hong Kong today on his own accord for a third country through a lawful and normal channel.”

On Saturday, the White House contacted Hong Kong to try to arrange his extradition. But the territory’s administration now says the documents submitted by Washington did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law. As a result, Hong Kong says it requested further information from the US Justice Department.

(Agencies)

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