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White House urges Moscow to expel Snowden to U.S.

By Max Seddon

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 08:49 a.m. HST, Jun 24, 2013

WASHINGTON » The U.S. assumes National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden remains in Russia, and officials are working with Moscow in hopes he will be expelled and returned to America to face criminal charges, President Barack Obama's spokesman said today. He declared that a decision by Hong Kong not to detain Snowden has "unquestionably" hurt relations between the United States and China.

Snowden left Hong Kong, where he has been in hiding, and flew to Moscow but then apparently did not board a plane bound for Cuba as had been expected. His whereabouts were a mystery. The founder of the WikiLeaks secret-spilling organization, Julian Assange, said he wouldn't go into details about where Snowden was but said he was safe.

Snowden has applied for asylum in Ecuador, Iceland and possibly other countries, Assange said.

Obama, asked if he was confident that Russia would expel Snowden, told reporters: "What we know is that we're following all the appropriate legal channels and working with various other countries to make sure that the rule of law is observed."

Obama's spokesman, Jay Carney, earlier today said the U.S. was expecting the Russians "to look at the options available to them to expel Mr. Snowden back to the United States to face justice for the crimes with which he is charged."

"The Chinese have emphasized the importance of building mutual trust," Carney added. "And we think that they have dealt that effort a serious setback. If we cannot count on them to honor their legal extradition obligations, then there is a problem. And that is a point we are making to them very directly."

Snowden has given highly classified documents to The Guardian and The Washington Post newspapers disclosing U.S. surveillance programs that collect vast amounts of phone records and online data in the name of foreign intelligence, often sweeping up information on American citizens. He also told the South China Morning Post that "the NSA does all kinds of things like hack Chinese cellphone companies to steal all of your SMS data."

Snowden still has perhaps more than 200 sensitive documents, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said over the weekend.

He had been in hiding in Hong Kong, a former British colony with a degree of autonomy from mainland China. The United States formally sought Snowden's extradition but was rebuffed by Hong Kong officials who said the U.S. request did not fully comply with their laws. The Justice Department rejected that claim, saying its request met all of the requirements of the extradition treaty between the U.S. and Hong Kong.

Said Carney: "We are just not buying that this was a technical decision by a Hong Kong immigration official. This was a deliberate choice by the government to release a fugitive despite a valid arrest warrant, and that decision unquestionably has a negative impact on the U.S.-China relationship."

The dual lines of diplomacy — harsh with China, hopeful with the Russians — came just days after Obama met separately with leaders of both countries in an effort to close gaps on some of the major disputes facing them.

Snowden arrived in Moscow on Sunday, but his whereabouts were thrown into question today when a plane took off from Moscow for Cuba with an empty seat booked in his name. The U.S. has revoked his passport.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said it would be "deeply troubling" if Russia or Hong Kong had adequate notice about Snowden's plans to flee to a country that would grant him asylum and still allowed him leave.

"We don't know, specifically, where he may head, or what his intended destination may be," Kerry said, responding to a question during a news conference in New Delhi where he was discussing bilateral issues between the U.S. and India.

U.S. officials pointed to improved cooperation with the Russians in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing and to assistance the U.S. has given Russia on law enforcement cases.

"We continue to hope that the Russians will do the right thing," Kerry told NBC News. "We think it's very important in terms of our relationship. We think it's very important in terms of rule of law. These are important standards. We have returned seven criminals that they requested for extradition from the United States over the last two years. So we really hope that the right choice will be made here."

"We don't know, specifically, where he may head, or what his intended destination may be," Kerry said during a news conference in New Delhi.

Carney said the U.S. was in touch through diplomatic and law enforcement channels with countries through which Snowden might travel or where he might end up.

"The U.S. is advising these governments that Mr. Snowden is wanted on felony charges and as such should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel, other than is necessary to return him here to the United States," Carney said.

An Aeroflot representative who wouldn't give her name told The Associated Press that Snowden wasn't on flight SU150 to Havana, which was filled with journalists trying to track him down.

In Moscow, security around the aircraft was heavy prior to boarding and guards tried to prevent the scrum of photographers and cameramen from taking pictures of the plane, heightening the speculation that Snowden might have been secretly escorted on board.

After spending a night in Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport, Snowden had been expected to fly to Cuba and Venezuela en route to possible asylum in Ecuador.

Some analysts said it was likely that the Russians were questioning Snowden, interested in what he knew about U.S. electronic espionage against Moscow.

"If Russian special services hadn't shown interest in Snowden, they would have been utterly unprofessional," Igor Korotchenko, a former colonel in Russia's top military command turned security analyst, said on state Rossiya 24 television.

The White House's tough response to Hong Kong's decision to let Snowden leave came just two weeks after Obama met with Chinese President Xi Jinping for two days of personal diplomacy in a desert retreat in California.

Carney said that after the U.S. sought Snowden's extradition from Hong Kong, authorities there requested additional information from the U.S.

"The U.S. had been in communication with Hong Kong about these inquiries and we were in the process of responding to the request when we learned that Hong Kong authorities had allowed the fugitive to leave Hong Kong," Carney said.

Ecuador's foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, said his government had received an asylum request, adding today that the decision "has to do with freedom of expression and with the security of citizens around the world."

Ecuador has rejected some previous U.S. efforts at cooperation and has been helping Assange avoid prosecution by allowing him to stay at its embassy in London.

But Assange's comments that Snowden had applied in multiple places opened other possibilities of where he might try to go.

WikiLeaks has said it is providing legal help to Snowden at his request and that he was being escorted by diplomats and legal advisers from the group.

Icelandic officials have confirmed receiving an informal request for asylum conveyed by WikiLeaks, which has strong links to the tiny North Atlantic nation. But authorities there have insisted that Snowden must be on Icelandic soil before making a formal request.

Associated Press White House Correspondent Julie Pace and Associated Press writers Philip Elliott, Matthew Lee and Frederic J. Frommer in Washington, Lynn Berry and Vladimir Isachenkov and Max Seddon in Moscow, Kevin Chan in Hong Kong and Sylvia Hui in London contributed to this report.

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HLOEWEN wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on June 24,2013 | 05:14AM
jrboi96786 wrote:
please explain. other than the fact that you pay your "taxes" claim which I assume where you going to.
on June 24,2013 | 07:17AM
honokai wrote:
the rights of the people are self-evident and originate from God ---- the government must operate within the confines of the Constitution or it is an illegal government --- hence government people work for the citizens and must uphold the Constitution --- this is basic
on June 24,2013 | 07:35AM
hanalei395 wrote:
Snowden is keeping one step ahead. The U.S. is very embarrassed. And the world is having a ball.
on June 24,2013 | 08:10AM
false wrote:
I wish the Star-Advertiser would use this occasion to tell us what our employees are doing in Hawaii. It is an open secret Hawaii is a major base for US intelligence activities, yet our local "paper of record" shares little information on the local operations nor about the significant "public-private partnership" between Hawaii-based military and security contractors and the federal government.

Instead of re-printing AP stories about "celebrity sightings" of Snowden (or NON-sightings, like this story), please assemble what information is in the public domain and explain to Hawaii's people what sort of spying is going on here, in Hawaii. Thanks!

on June 24,2013 | 08:31AM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
By Sunday, this traitors should be in rightful custody. God Bless America.
on June 24,2013 | 09:15AM
RichardCory wrote:
It's so curious to see this sort of blind nationalism that renders people so willing to bow down to the flag regardless of whether the people propping up are criminals that undermine the constitution. Better to be a traitor against those scum than to stand in complicity with them. May God have no blessings for America. God bless the world instead.
on June 24,2013 | 09:46AM
JBS wrote:
So bless the world but exclude the USA? Please submit the proper paperwork.
on June 24,2013 | 11:04AM
RichardCory wrote:
You fail to understand the deeper message my statement intends to make. I'm not surprised, however. The level of sophistication and intellectual strength of the posters here borders subhuman.
on June 24,2013 | 12:41PM
loquaciousone wrote:
Snowden is having a ball in a Russian Gulag. You think Putin is going to let this gold mine slip through his fingers? Their going to milk him like a pregnant cow.
on June 24,2013 | 07:01AM
pcman wrote:
IRT loquacious on gold mine. Actually, the Chinese and Russians have assessed that Snowden is worthless to their cause for being superpowers. Snowden's knowledge and expertise are basically low-level or tactical, mainly for counterterrorism and criminal investigation. The Chinese and Russians probably have similar programs, but at a smaller scale that is targeted for certain profiled individuals, as they are not hampered by constraints of the US Constitution and laws.
on June 24,2013 | 08:02AM
loquaciousone wrote:
Snowden was a System's Administrator. IT guys have access that even higher level security clearance personnel don't have.
on June 24,2013 | 08:30AM
localguy wrote:
pcman - Your source for this information is on what link? Rookie posters.............
on June 24,2013 | 09:42AM
honokai wrote:
What have we learned so far ---- 1) the government is spying on regular citizens; 2) about 5 million people hold secret clearances; and 3) one of those 5 million people came forward to let us know.
on June 24,2013 | 07:01AM
Cricket_Amos wrote:
No comment.
on June 24,2013 | 07:21AM
kainalu wrote:
I would venture a guess that there are thousands of civil servants that work for the NSA and have the same access that Snowden had. That this guy had a conscience and shared with AMERICANS what was happening makes him more of a threat than those others how?
on June 24,2013 | 08:01AM
loquaciousone wrote:
on June 24,2013 | 08:32AM
boshio wrote:
The U.S should stop seeking help in finding Snowden, and just put a $2 mil bounty on his capture, alive.
on June 24,2013 | 08:41AM
localguy wrote:
White House speaks with forked tongue. After it was revealed we spied on Hong Kong, they stuck it right back to us. letting Snowden go. Touche. Now expect Russia to do the same, sticking us for spying on them, we were always blaming China. Snowden showed otherwise. Sad to say we did this to ourselves. Once again dysfunctional beltway bureaucrats haven't got a clue how to act ethically and professionally. This is what they do.
on June 24,2013 | 09:41AM
stanmanley wrote:
C'mon Obama, kick some buttocks.
on June 24,2013 | 09:52AM
Ripoff wrote:
Get a hold of CTU and get Jack Bauer
on June 24,2013 | 10:26AM
JBS wrote:
Best comment!
on June 24,2013 | 11:05AM
noheawilli wrote:
I for one am very glad the guy had the courage to tell us how the levithan is violating our privacy rights. The WH is coming across pretty powerless.
on June 24,2013 | 10:55AM
loquaciousone wrote:
It's one thing to do an expose but it's another to flee to countries like China and Russia who would like nothing more than to get their hands on our playbook.
on June 24,2013 | 11:10AM
hanalei395 wrote:
It was either that, or ending up like Bradley Manning ... being naked in a prison cell.
on June 24,2013 | 11:18AM
cojef wrote:
By the time the Russian get through with him, after debriefing him with techniques alien to us, he will end up as a nutty fruitcake. The tend to use chemicals to extract data from the brains and the victim ends forgetting even who he is.
on June 24,2013 | 11:41AM
hanalei395 wrote:
Actually, everybody will soon be forgetting what you just posted.
on June 24,2013 | 12:04PM
loquaciousone wrote:
Putin is a nice man....Putin is a nice man....Putin is a nice man...Putin is a n.........zzzzz.
on June 24,2013 | 01:04PM
DAGR81 wrote:
Let's see how much influence Obama has.
on June 24,2013 | 11:34AM
CriticalReader wrote:
Boy this is being handled badly.
on June 24,2013 | 01:34PM
Denominator wrote:
I think Obama will have to use the Navy seals again to get Snowden.
on June 24,2013 | 02:20PM
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