Snowden reportedly lands in Moscow, aided by Wikileaks
Hong Kong: Ex-NSA contractor was allowed to leave since U.S. extradition request was not fully compliant with local law.
Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden will fly from Moscow to Cuba on Monday and then plans to go to Venezuela, a source at the Russian airline Aeroflot said on Sunday.
Moscow airport confirmed that the plane from Hong Kong believed to be carrying Sonwden has landed.
The WikiLeaks anti-secrecy website said on Sunday that Snowden was heading for an unnamed "democratic nation.”
Earlier, Hong Kong said that Snowden has been allowed to leave the territory because a U.S. extradition request did not fully comply with Hong Kong law. Hong Kong's government said in a statement that Snowden left “on his own accord for a third country through a lawful and normal channel,” however did not identify the country.
Hong Kong said that additional information was requested from Washington, but since it "has yet to have sufficient information to process the request for provisional warrant of arrest, there is no legal basis to restrict Mr. Snowden from leaving Hong Kong."
The statement said Hong Kong had informed the U.S. of Snowden's departure.
The White House had no immediate comment about Snowden's departure, which came a day after the U.S. made a formal request for his extradition and gave a pointed warning to Hong Kong against delaying the process of returning him to face trial in the U.S.
Hong Kong has an extradition treaty with the U.S., but the document has some exceptions, including for crimes deemed political.
Snowden's departure eliminates a possible fight between Washington and Beijing at a time when China is trying to deflect U.S. accusations that it carries out extensive surveillance of American government and commercial operations. Hong Kong, a former British colony, has a high degree of autonomy and is granted rights and freedoms not seen on mainland China, but under the city's mini constitution Beijing is allowed to intervene in matters involving defense and diplomatic affairs.
The Obama administration on Saturday warned Hong Kong against delaying Snowden's extradition, with White House national security adviser Tom Donilon saying in an interview with CBS News, "Hong Kong has been a historically good partner of the U.S. in law enforcement matters, and we expect them to comply with the treaty in this case."
Snowden's departure came as the South China Morning Post released new allegations from Snowden that U.S. hacking targets in China included the nation's cellphone companies and two universities hosting extensive Internet traffic hubs.
He told the newspaper that "the NSA does all kinds of things like hack Chinese cellphone companies to steal all of your SMS data." It added that Snowden said he had documents to support the hacking allegations, but the report did not identify the documents. It said he spoke to the newspaper in a June 12 interview.
With a population of more than 1.3 billion, China has massive cellphone companies. China Mobile is the world's largest mobile network carrier with 735 million subscribers, followed by China Unicom with 258 million users and China Telecom with 172 million users.
Snowden said Tsinghua University in Beijing and Chinese University in Hong Kong, home of some of the country's major Internet traffic hubs, were targets of extensive hacking by U.S. spies this year. He said the NSA was focusing on so-called "network backbones" in China, through which enormous amounts of Internet data passes.
The Chinese government has not commented on the extradition request and Snowden's departure.