U.S. lawmakers slam Russia for abetting Snowden flight

WASHINGTON Sun Jun 23, 2013 12:37pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. lawmakers on Sunday said former national security contractor Edward Snowden's reported flight to Russia with a plan to flee onward to Cuba or Venezuela undermined his whistle blower claims and they slammed Moscow for helping a fugitive.

An aircraft thought to be carrying Snowden landed in Moscow on Sunday after Hong Kong let the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor leave the territory, despite Washington's efforts to extradite him to face espionage charges.

According to a source at Russia's Aeroflot airline, Snowden was traveling to Moscow and was planning to go to Venezuela via Cuba.

Democratic U.S. Senator Charles Schumer charged that Russian President Vladimir Putin likely knew and approved of Snowden's flight from Hong Kong to Russia. He said that will "have serious consequences" for a U.S.-Russian relationship already strained over Syria and human rights.

"Putin always seems almost eager to stick a finger in the eye of the United States - whether it is Syria, Iran and now of course with Snowden," Schumer told CNN's "State of the Union," adding that China may have had a role as well.

"It remains to be seen how much influence Beijing had on Hong Kong," Schumer said. "As you know, they coordinate their foreign policies and I have a feeling that the hand of Beijing was involved here."

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers said Snowden's reported choice to fly later to Cuba and Venezuela undermines his claim to be a fighter for freedom of information.

"Everyone of those nations is hostile to the United States. I mean, if he could go to North Korea and Iran, he could round out his government oppression tour," the Michigan Republican said on Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" program.

Rogers urged the Obama administration to exhaust all legal options to get Snowden back to the United States. "If he really believes he did something good, he should get on a plane, come back and face the consequences of his actions," he said.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Snowden needed to be caught and brought back for trial as secrets he was carrying could do a lot of damage to U.S. interests.

"I think we need to know exactly what he has," she told CBS's "Face the Nation." "He could have a lot, lot more that may really put people in jeopardy."

Schumer aimed most of his fire at Putin, saying "it is almost certain he know, and likely approved" the flight by Snowden, who had been hiding in Hong Kong since leaking details about U.S. surveillance activities to news media.

"What is infuriating here is," Schumer said, was Putin "aiding and abetting Snowden's escape." The New York lawmaker is the No. 3 Senate Democrat.

The United States has been told by Hong Kong that Snowden has left Hong Kong for "a third country" and Washington will seek cooperation with countries Snowden may try to go to, a Justice Department official said on Sunday.

"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," Justice Department spokeswoman Nanda Chitre said in a statement.

The United States contacted Hong Kong on Saturday seeking Snowden's extradition, Chitre said.

But a second Justice Department official told Reuters "They came back to us late Friday with additional questions and we were in the process of responding."

The U.S. request to Hong Kong authorities "met the requirements of the agreement," the official said.

While many blasted Snowden, Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, a member of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee and one of the chamber's most conservative members, said, "it's going to be an open question how this young man is judged."

"If he goes to an independent third country like Iceland and if he refuses to talk to any sort of formal government about this, I think there's a chance that he'll be seen as an advocate of privacy."

"If he cozies up to either the Russian government, the Chinese government, or any of these governments that are perceived still as enemies of ours, I think that that will be a real problem for him in history." Paul said in a separate appearance on CNN's "State of the Union."

(Additional reporting by Mark Felsenthal and David Brunnstrom; editing by Jackie Frank)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (3)
Daniel77 wrote:
Like Russia cares.
When is the last time
the US changed a position
in order to preserve
relations with Russia?

Jun 23, 2013 12:34pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
JH818 wrote:
@Daniel77 Agreed, I like how they’re making a point to say that these countries are hostile to the US. Well no sh#@ he’s going to seek asylum in a “hostile” country. You think any other place in the world wouldn’t hand him over without a second thought?

Jun 23, 2013 4:03pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
OzBolts wrote:
I wonder what else the lad has, if anything.

Seems that the ruling class sure is in a tizzy over this. Maybe because it’s yet another example of how the current, and previous, administration(s) have pressed the “turbo” button on desecrating the last remaining rights and freedoms that the people of the United States of America still have.

Perhaps, just like their deformation of the free market, Obama’s (just like Bush’s) banner men are worried that the truth of the “friendly dictators” on the throne are coming to light.

I remember reading about when the Clinton administration essentially destroyed Glass-Steagall with the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and thought to myself “Huh… well, now you’ve made a weird mix of kleptocratic socialism and capitalism into one big thieving mess, now when do the personal rights go out the window?”

Then came the Patriot Act…. but don’t worry, Mr. Obama will save us all. PRISM? Spying on the AP? IRS scandal? Drone strikes against countrymen (and their use domestically for surveillance)? Closing Git’mo (hah)? Helicopter Ben and QE-to-infinity-and-beyond? What a joke…

Whole lot of sheep with different wool running around these days…

Jun 23, 2013 5:13pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

Full focus