Ecuador confirms asylum request from Snowden
Former NSA contractor lands in Moscow after Hong Kong refuses US arrest request
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Photograph: Reuters
Ecuadorean foreign minister Ricardo Patino said today that former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden had asked Ecuador for asylum. “The Government of Ecuador has received an asylum request from Edward J. Snowden,” Mr Patino, who is on an official visit to Vietnam, said on Twitter.
Mr Patino did not give additional details. WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson confirmed that Snowden had requested asylum in Ecuador.
The anti-secrecy website had earlier said it helped Snowden find “political asylum in a democratic country”.
Ecuador has given political asylum to the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, who has spent more than a year holed up at Ecuador’s embassy in London.
An official source said the United States had revoked Snowden’s passport. It was not immediately clear how he was able to travel, and the official offered no details.
An aircraft thought to be carrying him landed in Moscow today after Hong Kong let the former US National Security Agency contractor leave the territory, despite Washington’s efforts to extradite him to face espionage charges.
Snowden, who worked for the National Security Agency, had been hiding in Hong Kong since leaking details about US surveillance activities to news media.
A spokesman for the government of Hong Kong, a former British colony which returned to China in 1997, said it had let Snowden depart because a US request to have him arrested did not comply with the law.
The United States wanted him to be extradited to face trial and is likely to be furious about his departure.
In Washington, a Justice Department official said it would seek cooperation with countries Snowden may try to go to.
The head of the National Security Agency said today he did not know why his agency failed to prevent the former NSA contractor from leaving Hawaii for Hong Kong with a trove of secrets about US surveillance programmes.
“It’s clearly an individual who’s betrayed the trust and confidence we had in him. This is an individual who is not acting, in my opinion, with noble intent,” General Keith Alexander told the ABC News This Week programme.
Snowden had been working as a contractor for the NSA in Hawaii when he fled to Hong Kong.
Asked if he knew why the NSA did not catch Snowden before he left Hawaii, Mr Alexander said: “No, I don’t.”
The WikiLeaks anti-secrecy website said it helped Snowden find “political asylum in a democratic country”.
It added in an update on Twitter that he was accompanied by diplomats and legal advisers and was travelling via a safe route for the purposes of seeking asylum.
“The WikiLeaks legal team and I are interested in preserving Mr Snowden’s rights and protecting him as a person,” former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon, legal director of WikiLeaks and lawyer for the group’s founder Julian Assange, said in a statement.
“What is being done to Mr Snowden and to Mr Julian Assange - for making or facilitating disclosures in the public interest - is an assault against the people.”