U.S. officials expressed disappointment in the Hong Kong government’s decision to defy its extradition request of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and allow him to travel to Russia.
Asked to respond to Hong Kong’s passive-aggressive statement confirming Snowden’s departure, a Justice Department spokesperson said only that the U.S. was “disappointed” and that it “disagrees” with the Hong Kong government’s decisions on the matter.
Another Justice Department official said in a statement: “As we stated yesterday, the United States had contacted authorities in Hong Kong to seek the extradition of Mr. Snowden, based on the criminal complaint filed in the Eastern District of Virginia, and in accordance with the U.S.-Hong Kong Agreement for the Surrender of Fugitive Offenders.
“We have been informed by the Hong Kong authorities Mr. Snowden has departed Hong Kong for a third country. We will continue to discuss this matter with Hong Kong and pursue relevant law enforcement cooperation with other countries where Mr. Snowden may be attempting to travel.”
Hong Kong’s decision came as an overt shock to the United States. On Saturday, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon expressed confidence that a “historically good partner” in Hong Kong would honour the U.S.’s requests.
But it appears that U.S. officials were caught completely off-guard on the news. According to a report in The Guardian, Snowden was well on his way in-flight to Russia when Hong Kong confirmed news of his departure from the country.
In its statement, the Hong Kong government said that the U.S. had botched the legal paperwork and that it requested additional information related to Snowden’s extradition. Since there was not “sufficient information to process the request, there was no legal basis to restrict Mr. Snowden from leaving Hong Kong,” the statement read. The Justice Department didn’t respond to a request for comment on this charge.
The New York Times reported that the Chinese government had a hand in determining Snowden would be allowed to leave Hong Kong, despite Hong Kong’s assurances that it acted independently. The paper also reported, citing two “Western intelligence experts who worked for major government spy agencies,” that the Chinese government had obtained some contents from Snowden’s computers he traveled with.
From the report:
Two Western intelligence experts, who worked for major government spy agencies, said they believed that the Chinese government had managed to drain the contents of the four laptops that Mr. Snowden said he brought to Hong Kong, and that he said were with him during his stay at a Hong Kong hotel.
If that were the case, they said, China would no longer need or want to have Mr. Snowden remain in Hong Kong.
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