The Times West Virginian

Headline News

June 27, 2013

Mystery about Snowden deepens

MOSCOW — Moscow’s main airport swarmed with journalists from around the globe Wednesday, but the man they were looking for, National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, was nowhere to be seen.

The mystery of his whereabouts only deepened a day after President Vladimir Putin said that Snowden was in the transit area of Sheremetyevo Airport.

There were ordinary scenes of duty free shopping, snoozing travelers and tourists sipping coffee but no trace of America’s most famous fugitive. If Putin’s statement is true, it means that Snowden has effectively lived a life of airport limbo since his weekend flight from Hong Kong, especially with his American passport now revoked by U.S. authorities.

Adding to the uncertainty, Ecuador’s foreign minister said it could take up to two months to decide whether to grant asylum to Snowden and the Latin American nation would take into consideration its relations with the U.S. Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino compared Snowden’s case to that of Julian Assange, the founder of anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, who has been given asylum in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.

“It took us two months to make a decision in the case of Assange, so do not expect us to make a decision sooner this time,” Patino told reporters during a visit to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. However, later in the day he said on Twitter that the decision could happen “in a day, a week, or, as happened with Assange, it could take two months.”

Snowden, who is charged with violating American espionage laws, fled Hong Kong over the weekend and flew to Russia. He booked a seat on a Havana-bound flight Monday en route to Venezuela, but didn’t board the plane. His ultimate destination was believed to be Ecuador.

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa shot back at critics on Wednesday, taking special aim at a Washington Post editorial that described him as “the autocratic leader of tiny, impoverished Ecuador” and accused him of a double standard for considering asylum for Snowden while stifling critics at home.

“The shamelessness of the century: Washington Post accuses Ecuador of double standard,” Correa said on his Twitter page.

As a contractor for the NSA, Snowden gained access to documents that he gave to the Post and the Guardian to expose what he contends are privacy violations by an authoritarian government.

Correa complained that the international press “has managed to focus attention on Snowden and on those ‘wicked’ countries that ‘aid’ him, making us forget the terrible things against the U.S. people and the whole world that he denounced.”

An Associated Press reporter entered the transit area where Snowden is purportedly staying by flying from Kiev, Ukraine. It serves both connecting passengers traveling via Moscow to onward destinations and passengers departing from Moscow who have passed border and security checks.

The transit zone unites three terminals: the modern, recently built D and E, and the older, less comfortable F, which dates to the Soviet era. Boarding gates line one side of the transit and departure area, and gleaming duty free shops, luxury clothing boutiques and souvenir stores selling Russian Matryoshka dolls are on the other. About a dozen restaurants owned by local and foreign chains serve various tastes.

Hundreds of Russian and foreign tourists awaited flights on Wednesday, some stretched out on rows of gray chairs, others sipping hot drinks at coffee shops or watching through giant windows as silver-blue Aeroflot planes landed and took off.

An Asian girl, about 10 years old, slept peacefully on her father’s lap. A middle-aged mother and her teenage daughter tried out perfume samples at a duty free store, while a woman in a green dress picked out a pair of designer sunglasses. A pilot was buying lunch at Burger King.

Putin insisted Tuesday that Snowden has stayed in the transit zone without passing through Russian immigration and is free to travel wherever he likes. But the U.S. move to annul Snowden’s passport may have severely complicated his travel plans. Exiting the transit area would require either boarding a plane or passing through border control, both of which require a valid passport or other documentation.

Hordes of journalists armed with laptops and photo and video cameras have camped in and around the airport, looking for Snowden or anyone who may have seen or talked to him. But after talking to passengers, airport personnel, waiters and shop clerks, the press corps has discovered no sign of the leaker.

Russian news agencies, citing unidentified sources, reported that Snowden was staying at a hotel in the transit terminal, but there was no sign of him at the zone’s only hotel, Air Express. It offers several dozen capsule-style spaces that passengers can rent for a few hours to catch some sleep. Hotel staff refused to say whether Snowden was staying there or had stayed there in the past.

“We only saw lots of journalists, that’s for sure,” said Maxim, a waiter at the Shokoladnitsa diner not far from Air Express, who declined to give his last name because he wasn’t allowed to talk to reporters.

The departure and transit area is huge and has dozens of small rooms, some labeled “authorized personnel only,” where someone could potentially seek refuge with support from airport staff or security personnel. And security forces or police patrolling the area can easily whisk a person out of this area through back doors or corridors.

There are also a few VIP lounge areas, accessible to business-class passengers or people willing to pay $20 per hour. Snowden was not seen in those areas.

Sheremetyevo’s press service declined to comment on Snowden’s whereabouts.

Hong Kong officials said they allowed Snowden to leave for Moscow because the U.S. government got his middle name wrong in documents it submitted seeking his arrest. Hong Kong immigration records listed Snowden’s middle name as Joseph, but the U.S. government used the name James in some documents and referred to him only as Edward J. Snowden in others, Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen said. The U.S. also did not provide his passport number and did not respond to requests for clarification, Yuen said.

Meanwhile, WikiLeaks gave a terse update on Snowden, saying he was “well” in a post on Twitter.

WikiLeaks says one of its staffers, Sarah Harrison, is traveling with Snowden, but the statement gave no indication if the update came from her, from Snowden, or from some other source.

WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson did not immediately return a call and a text seeking further comment.

In a conference call with reporters on Monday, Assange said that he was limited in what he could say about Snowden due to security concerns. He denied reports that Snowden was spending his time at the airport being debriefed by Russian intelligence officers.

—————

Yoong reported from Kuala Lumpur. Lynn Berry in Moscow and Raphael Satter in London contributed to this report.

 

1
Text Only
Headline News
  • Starved Pennsylvania 7-year-old weighed only 25 pounds

    A 7-year-old Pennsylvania boy authorities described as being so underweight he looked like a human skeleton has been released from the hospital.

    July 22, 2014

  • U.S. outlines case against Russia on downed plane

    Video of a rocket launcher, one surface-to-air missile missing, leaving the likely launch site. Imagery showing the firing. Calls claiming credit for the strike. Recordings said to reveal a cover-up at the crash site.

    July 21, 2014

  • James Garner Obit.jpg 'Maverick' star James Garner, 86, dies in California

     Actor James Garner, whose whimsical style in the 1950s TV Western "Maverick" led to a stellar career in TV and films such as "The Rockford Files" and his Oscar-nominated "Murphy's Romance," has died, police said. He was 86.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Given life term, drug offender hopes for clemency

    From the very start, Scott Walker refused to believe he would die in prison.
    Arrested and jailed at 25, then sent to prison more than two years later, Walker couldn’t imagine spending his life behind bars for dealing drugs. He told himself this wasn’t the end, that someday he’d be released. But the years passed, his appeals failed and nothing changed.

    July 20, 2014

  • Teen’s death puts focus on caffeine powder dangers

    A few weeks before their prom king’s death, students at an Ohio high school had attended an assembly on narcotics that warned about the dangers of heroin and prescription painkillers.
    But it was one of the world’s most widely accepted drugs that killed Logan Stiner — a powdered form of caffeine so potent that as little as a single teaspoon can be fatal.

    July 20, 2014

  • Monitors try to secure Ukraine plane crash site

    International monitors moved gingerly Saturday through fields reeking of the decomposing corpses that fell from a Malaysian airliner shot down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine, trying to secure the sprawling site in hopes that a credible investigation can be conducted.
    But before inspectors ever reach the scene, doubts arose about whether evidence was being compromised.

    July 20, 2014

  • Without radar, missile may not have identified jet

    If Ukrainian rebels shot down the Malaysian jetliner, killing 298 people, it may have been because they didn’t have the right systems in place to distinguish between military and civilian aircraft, experts said Saturday.
    American officials said Friday that they believe the Boeing 777 was brought down by an SA-11 missile fired from an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

    July 20, 2014

  • For Obama, foreign crises grow more challenging

    Surveying a dizzying array of international crises, President Barack Obama stated the obvious: “We live in a complex world and at a challenging time.”
    And then suddenly, only a day later, the world had grown much more troubling, the challenges even more confounding.

    July 20, 2014

  • U.S.: Can’t rule out Russian role in plane downing

    U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power told an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Friday that the United States cannot rule out that Russia helped in the launch of the surface-to-air missile that shot down a Malaysia Airlines jet over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

    July 19, 2014

  • Clinton papers: Of Iraq, bin Laden and Supreme Court

    President Bill Clinton’s advisers carefully considered how to explain the president’s military action against Iraq in 1998 as the House was debating his impeachment, according to records from the Clinton White House that were released Friday. The documents also touch upon Osama bin Laden, consideration of military action in Haiti in 1994 and preparationsfor Supreme Court nomination hearings.

    July 19, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads