The U.S. whistleblower who exposed the National Security Agency’s secret domestic surveillance program left Hong Kong.
WikiLeaks tweeted this morning that Edward Snowden left Hong Kong overnight accompanied by WikiLeaks legal advisors on an Aeroflot Airlines flight to Moscow, Russia.
A statement released by WikiLeaks said “He is bound for a democratic nation via a safe route for the purposes of asylum… Mr. 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.”
The Hong Kong government released a statement saying Snowden left the country on his “own accord” hours after the U.S. government asked Hong Kong officials to extradite him.
Hong Kong officials said the documents filed by the U.S. did not comply with requirements in Hong Kong and they had no grounds to keep Snowden from leaving.
Snowden’s final destination is not yet known but there are media reports that Snowden will fly from Russia to Cuba on Monday.
Snowden faces charges of espionage and theft of government property. Snowden has admitted in interviews he was the source behind the leaking of classified documents about the NSA’s surveillance programs.
President Barack Obama, top legislators and national security officials defend the surveillance programs as necessary to combat terrorism and argue that some privacy must be sacrificed in a balanced approach.