U.S. officials and lawmakers are reacting with shock and indignation to news that a fugitive former U.S. intelligence contractor arrived in the Russian capital after being allowed to depart Hong Kong. News reports from Moscow say Edward Snowden intends to travel to Cuba with a possible final destination of Ecuador.
Earlier this month, Snowden leaked classified U.S. intelligence information concerning domestic surveillance of telephone and Internet communications. He then fled to Hong Kong.
The Obama administration sought his arrest and eventual extradition to the United States for prosecution. Authorities in Hong Kong reportedly objected to the paperwork filed, and allowed his departure for Moscow.
Congressman Mike Rodgers, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said “Well, it is concerning.”
Speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press television program he said, “It appears as of today that he [Snowden] will catch another flight from Moscow, many believe to Cuba - we know there is air traffic from Moscow to Cuba. Every one of those nations is hostile to the United States.”
Rogers says the Obama administration should use “every legal avenue” to bring Snowden back to the United States.
Appearing on CBS’ Face the Nation program, Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein agreed. “I want to get him caught and brought back for trial," she said.
Feinstein said she worries that Snowden may reveal more U.S. secrets unless he is apprehended. U.S. officials say great damage has already been done.
The director of the U.S. National Security Agency, General Keith Alexander, appeared on ABC’s This Week program. “What Snowden has revealed has caused irreversible and significant damage to our country and to our allies," he said.
Snowden’s actions contradict any claim he may have to being a heroic whistleblower, according to Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who spoke on Fox News Sunday. “The ‘freedom trail’ is not exactly China-Russia-Cuba-Venezuela. So I hope we will chase him to the ends of the earth," he said.
Snowden told reporters his conscience dictated that he reveal the true scope of U.S. information-gathering activities.