News Column

US Whistleblower Fired as Search Continues

June 11, 2013

The former CIA employee responsible for one of the highest-profile leaks in U.S. history was believed to be still in Hong Kong on Tuesday, but his exact whereabouts were unknown.

Edward Snowden has been the focus of media reports since he was identified as the source who gave newspapers in Britain and the United States classified information about a vast government data collection programme.

The Mira hotel in the prosperous Tsim Sha Tsui neighbourhood said a guest under the name of Edward Snowden had checked out Monday.

"We thought he was just an ordinary guest," the South China Morning Post newspaper quoted the hotel's deputy manager, Kevin Ko, as saying.

Snowden, 29, left the U.S. in mid May - before the revelations about the programme became public. Senior US lawmakers have called for his extradition.

"I believe he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," said Congressman Peter King, the senior Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee.

"I consider him right now to be a defector," he told CNN.

Rights experts believe that Snowden, who has said he wishes to seek asylum, is safe in Hong Kong from any immediate moves to extradite him.

The Chinese territory is currently reviewing its procedures for assessing asylum applications, and possible legal proceedings against Snowden could take a long time, said Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch.

Snowden has indicated that he might seek asylum in Iceland, but a spokesman for the country's Interior Ministry, Johannes Tomasson, said the ministry had not had contact with him or seen any asylum application.

Local activists were nevertheless making preparations should the whistleblower try to travel there.

Smari McCarthy, director of the Icelandic Modern Media Institute, which promotes freedom of speech, said the institute was considering possible implications of an asylum request but was "waiting for his [Snowden's] input."

Snowden told the Guardian newspaper that he was interested in seeking asylum in a country "with shared values," and that the country that most encompasses this ideal is Iceland. "They stood up for people over internet freedom," he told the Guardian.

Prominent Russian politicians also indicated the country would be open to receiving Snowden.

Alexei Pushkov, the chairman of the State Duma's foreign policy committee, said US intelligence services had violated the law by wiretapping telephones and monitoring the internet.

"Snowden is a rights activists, just like Assange," Pushkov wrote on Twitter, referring to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has sought refuge in the Ecuadoran embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden.

Earlier, Duma deputy Robert Shlegel said in an interview with the Kommersant newspaper that it would be right to give Snowden political asylum. President Vladimir Putin's spokesman told the paper that if Snowden filed an asylum application, it would be studied.

Meanwhile, the consultancy that employed Snowden in Hawaii has fired him.

Booz Allen Hamilton said it fired Snowden from his $122,000-a-year job "for violations of the firm's code of ethics and firm policy."

Snowden worked as a computer specialist and had said he earned $200,000 a year.



Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH


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