Edward Snowden: On the Run, Seeking Asylum in Ecuador With WikiLeaks' Aid

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Edward Snowden, the man who leaked details of U.S. government surveillance programs, is on the run in Moscow and seeking asylum in Ecuador.

A onetime contract analyst for the National Security Agency (NSA), Snowden had been in Hong Kong, but left after the U.S. sought his extradition.

Edward Snowden Photo

He landed in Moscow, where a CNN crew spotted a car with diplomatic plates and an Ecuadorian flag at the Russian capital's international airport.

WikiLeaks, which facilitates the publication of classified information, is reportedly aiding the NSA whistleblower's efforts to seek asylum on foreign soil.

The group did not disclose what country would be Snowden's final destination.

Ecuador has given WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange refuge in its London embassy since 2012 after he tried and failed to fight extradition to Sweden.

The U.S. is asking Ecuador, as well as Cuba and Venezuela, not to admit Snowden, a senior Obama administration official told CNN on Sunday.

The United States also is asking those countries to expel him if they do admit him, the official said, and has already revoked Snowden's passport.

Snowden "left Hong Kong legally" and is headed to Ecuador "via a safe route for the purposes of asylum," WikiLeaks said in a statement issued Sunday.

He is accompanied by diplomats and lawyers for WikiLeaks, including former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon, a statement from the organization says.

"The WikiLeaks legal team and I are interested in preserving Mr. Snowden's rights and protecting him as a person," said Garzon, who also represents Assange.

"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."

Snowden has admitted he was the source who leaked classified documents about the NSA's surveillance programs to the British newspaper the Guardian.

The documents revealed the existence of programs that collect records of telephone calls in America and monitor the Internet activity of overseas residents.

The revelation of the leaks rocked the Obama administration and U.S. intelligence community, raising questions about secret operations of the NSA.

The U.S. government has said it will charge Snowden with espionage and theft of government property and asked Hong Kong authorities to hold him.

Didn't happen. Justice Department spokeswoman Nanda Chitre said Hong Kong authorities had informed U.S. officials of Snowden's exit.

The U.S. government had also asked Hong Kong to issue a provisional arrest warrant for Edward Snowden, but Hong Kong did not comply.

The documents provided by the U.S. government did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law, officials there said.

Because Hong Kong didn't have enough information, "there is no legal basis to restrict Mr. Snowden from leaving Hong Kong," the government said.

A Justice Department official said Sunday that the U.S. had met requirements with its request, disputing the assertion from authorities in Hong Kong.

Last week, Snowden told the South China Morning Post that U.S. intelligence agents have been hacking computer networks in Hong Kong and China for years.

Hong Kong said it wanted to have some words with the U.S. about that.

U.S. federal prosecutors have charged Snowden with theft of government propert and unauthorized communication of national defense information.

He is also accused of willful communication of classified communications intelligence to an unauthorized person under the federal Espionage Act.

President Barack Obama, top legislators and national security officials defend the surveillance programs Snowden detailed as necessary to combat terrorism.

They say the law allows collection of data, such as the time and numbers of phone calls, and that a federal court must approve accessing the content.

Snowden said he fled with the classified documents after taking leave from his job as an intelligence analyst for NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton.

The company has since fired him.

A series of blog posts this week purportedly by Snowden said he leaked classified details about said programs because Obama worsened "abusive" practices.

Snowden added that he had to get out of the United States before the leaks were published worldwide to avoid being targeted by the government.

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