Testy U.S. officials demand return of NSA document leaker Snowden

National Security Council seeks Snowden's extradition from Russia after Hong Kong ignores similar request

U.S. officials Monday testily asked the Russian government to expel fugitive document leaker Edward Snowden, who arrived there Sunday after spending several days in hiding in Hong Kong.

In a statement, the White House National Security Council blasted government officials in China and Hong Kong for permitting Snowden to leave despite an official U.S. request to detain him.

The security council called on Russian officials to extradite Snowden immediately, a move it said would be in keeping with the "intensified cooperation" between the U.S. and Russia that followed the Boston Marathon terrorist bombings in April.

"We are disappointed by the decision of the authorities in Hong Kong to permit Mr. Snowden to flee despite the legally valid U.S. request to arrest him for purposes of his extradition under the U.S.-Hong Kong Surrender Agreement," NSC spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in an email statement to Computerworld..

"We have registered our strong objections to the authorities in Hong Kong as well as to the Chinese government through diplomatic channels and noted that such behavior is detrimental to U.S.-Hong Kong and U.S.-China bilateral relations," she said.

Hayden said that the U.S. believes that Snowden is now in Russial and has asked the government there to extradite him without delay.

"We expect the Russian government to look at all options available to expel Mr. Snowden back to the U.S. to face justice for the crimes with which he is charged," Hayden said.

In a letter to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called the Snowden case an important test of the bilateral relationship between the two countries.

"As I am sure you are aware, Mr. Snowden is wanted in the United States for criminal violations and should stand trial for his actions," Graham said in the letter. "Mr. Snowden's own statements have made clear his guilt. If our two nations are to have a constructive relationship moving forward, Russian cooperation in this matter is essential."

Snowden, who has acknowledged leaking to reporters documents that describe various U.S. data interception programs, faces espionage charges and a possible life prison sentence.

Following publication of the pilfered classified documents in The Guardian newspaper earlier this month, Snowden fled to Hong Kong and stayed in hiding for several days while working to find a country that would grant him long-term political asylum.

On Sunday, he flew from Hong Kong to Moscow. He apparently plans to travel ultimately to Ecuador, where he has applied for asylum.

A lawyer from Julian Assange's WikiLeaks organization is reported to have accompanied Snowden on his trip to assist him in case he was arrested in Hong Kong or Moscow.

Snowden reportedly planned to fly to Havana on Monday and then on to Quito. Snowden's whereabouts was unclear as of late Monday afternoon U.S. Eastern time, though he's still presumed to be in Russia.

Ecuador Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino told the New York Times that official in his counrty have discussed the Snowden issue with Russian officials. Patino did not disclose Snowden's current whereabouts.

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan, or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed . His email address is jvijayan@computerworld.com.

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