National Security
2:45 am
Mon June 24, 2013

NSA Leaker Edward Snowden Is A Man On The Move

Originally published on Mon June 24, 2013 9:54 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene.

The whereabouts of NSA leaker Edward Snowden are once again a mystery. Over the weekend, Snowden left Hong Kong for Moscow where he's reportedly awaiting a flight out of the country to Latin America. But this morning, he was a no-show for his scheduled flight to Cuba. The travels of the former National Security Agency contractor have put the United States in a diplomatic and legal bind. The Obama administration wants to prosecute Snowden for leaking classified information about the widespread U.S. surveillance of phone and Internet records. In a few moments, we'll talk about the legal issues the Snowden case poses.

But first, to Moscow. We spoke a little earlier with the Washington Post bureau chief Kathy Lally.

Kathy, good morning.

KATHY LALLY: Good morning, David.

GREENE: OK, Kathy. So Snowden, we don't exactly know his whereabouts - when he might be on a plane going somewhere. But has his stay in Moscow been like?

LALLY: Very secretive. He arrived late Sunday afternoon. He was not spotted. He went into a transit area where passengers without visas can remain while awaiting a connecting flight. He either spent the night in a VIP room or in a small hotel where passengers with a long overnight wait can rent a room and get some sleep.

GREENE: So it's possible he never officially crossed onto Russian soil.

LALLY: That was the whole purpose of him staying in the transit zone, so Russia officials could say he was not on our territory; we did not let him across our border at passport control, so what could we do?

GREENE: Kathy, why Russia? Why would he have chosen this country?

LALLY: You can make connections through Moscow to Latin America without going through a NATO country. Apparently, he consulted with WikiLeaks several days ago, so they've had time to make plans. And I think they had to have asked Moscow if he could safely pass through. Otherwise, I can't imagine them taking the risk of him being returned to Hong Kong or sent back to the U.S.

GREENE: OK, so we no Snowden has requested asylum from the Ecuadorian government. This is a government that has given Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, asylum. What is WikiLeaks involvement here? I mean, there's a connection to WikiLeaks with Russia as well.

LALLY: That's right. Well, the first level, I think there's kind of an ideological connection. WikiLeaks wants to protect whistleblowers. Julian Assange has a television show on the RT Network which is financed by the Russian government. But basically, I think that Russia, when it can, likes to poke at the U.S. and say, you know, look you're not so all-powerful; we have our strengths too.

GREENE: Kathy, you have covered Russia and the former Soviet Union for a long time. We have someone accused by the U.S. government of leaking sensitive intelligence who might be, you know, holed up for a while in a Russian airport. I mean does this bring you back some Cold War memories?

(LAUGHTER)

LALLY: Well, certainly the trappings of the Cold War were very much in evidence here yesterday and today. Sunday, the cars belonging to the Ecuadorian Embassy was spotted at the airport. And there's still this very Soviet method in place in identifying cars. Diplomats all have red plates and each country is assigned a code. For example, the U.S. code is 004. The Ecuadorian code is 074. So red license plates beginning with 074 was spotted at the airport yesterday, so you knew Ecuadorian diplomats were there.

GREENE: Diplomatic paparazzi, it sounds like.

(LAUGHTER)

LALLY: Yes. Yes. Other reporters were showing pictures to passengers coming off the Hong Kong flight yesterday: Have you seen this man?

(LAUGHTER)

LALLY: It was Snowden and most of them did not recognize him.

Well, Kathy, keep the list of diplomatic codes from the license plates handy. And I know you'll be continuing to follow this story. Thanks a lot for coming on the program.

You're welcome.

GREENE: That's The Washington Post's Kathy Lally who joined us from her bureau in Moscow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.