WASHINGTON – The bizarre journey of Edward Snowden is far from over. After spending a night in Moscow‘s airport, the former National Security Agency contractor and admitted leaker of U.S. state secrets was expected to fly to Cuba and Venezuela en route to possible asylum in Ecuador.
But the U.S. says Moscow should hand Snowden over to Washington.
Several Russian news agencies were saying early Monday that Snowden had checked in for a flight to Havana.
Snowden, also a former CIA technician, fled Hong Kong on Sunday to dodge U.S. efforts to extradite him on espionage charges. Ecuador’s Foreign Minister, Ricardo Patino, said his government had received an asylum request. He added Monday that Ecuador’s decision about the request involves “freedom of expression and … the security of citizens around the world.” He did not say how long it would take Ecuador to decide.
The anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks has said it would help Snowden.
- Snowden lands in Moscow, likely bound for Ecuador
- Snowden’s impact on U.S. relations with China, Russia
- U.S. files espionage charges against NSA leaker
Snowden was on a flight from Hong Kong that arrived in Moscow Sunday and was booked on a flight to Cuba Monday, the Russian news agencies ITAR-Tass and Interfax reported, citing unnamed airline officials.
Patino said, “We know that he’s currently in Moscow, and we are … in touch with the highest authorities of Russia.”
In a sometimes combative interview Wednesday on “OutFront with Erin Burnett,” Assange described strategic surveillance by governments as a “sea change in politics” that puts freedoms at risk.
When pushed about Ecuador‘s press freedom record, described by the Committee to Protect Journalists as one of the worst in Latin America, Assange said: “Its people have been generous to me, but it’s not a significant world player.”
“Whatever little things occurring in small countries are not of concern,” he said. “We must concentrate on what is happening in the entire civilization of the world.”
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Assange fled to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in June to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over allegations that he raped one woman and sexually molested another. Assange has said he fears Sweden will transfer him to the United States, where he could face the death penalty for the work of WikiLeaks.
He has repeatedly said the allegations are politically motivated and tied to the work of his website, which facilitates the publication of secret documents. WikiLeaks has published hundreds of thousands of pages of American government diplomatic cables and assessments of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
He has not been charged in the United States, though Assange and his supporters claim a U.S. grand jury has been empanelled to consider charges against him.