UPDATE – 12:40 PM EST Ecuador Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino reports Ecuador has received an asylum request from Snowden.
UPDATE – 12:20 PM EST There were apparently multiple diplomatic cars from Ecuador seen after Snowden landed in Moscow. Snowden is believed to have gotten into one of them.
The whistleblower who revealed details on National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance and hacking, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, has left Hong Kong with the help of WikiLeaks.
A statement put out indicates he “left Hong Kong legally. He is bound for a democratic nation via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisors from WikiLeaks.”
It also shows that Snowden “requested that WikiLeaks use its legal expertise and experience to secure his safety. Once Mr Snowden arrives at his final destination his request will be formally processed.”
Snowden was able to leave Hong Kong because, according to a press release by the Hong Kong government, “The documents provided by the US Government did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law.”
The Hong Kong government requested the US government “provide additional information” so Hong Kong’s Department of Justice could consider whether the US Government’s request” could “meet the relevant legal conditions,” but they were not confident that they had been given “sufficient information to process the request for a provisional warrant” to arrest him.
It is believed that Snowden, who has been charged by the US Justice Department with two violations of the Espionage Act and one count of theft of government property, will be going onward to Havana, Cuba, and then to Caracas, Venezuela.
Additionally, United Kingdom citizen, journalist and legal researcher, who WikiLeaks reports has been working with the WikiLeaks Legal Defense team, helped Snowden depart from Hong Kong. She is “accompanying” Snowden” in his passage to safety.”
“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 Julian Assange stated. “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.”
Interfax news agency in Russia is reporting that Snowden may stay in the Venezuelan embassy in Russia before moving on to Havana on Monday.
NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander appeared on “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos on ABC. He did not speak specifically to the fact that Snowden had left Hong Kong but said Snowden is “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.”
The US Justice Department reacted to the news stating, “We have been informed by the Hong Kong authorities Mr Snowden has departed 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.”
It is unknown what Snowden’s final destination will be at this point, but WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange had this to say to the Sydney Morning Herald, “Owing to WikiLeaks’ own circumstances, we have developed significant expertise in international asylum and extradition law, associated diplomacy and the practicalities in these matters.”
“I have great personal sympathy for Ed Snowden’s position. WikiLeaks absolutely supports his decision to blow the whistle on the mass surveillance of the world’s population by the US government.”
Check back for updates on where in the world Snowden travels to next and what US government officials and others in the United States are saying about Snowden and his decision to travel to a “democratic nation.”