Some icon of liberty: Snowden leaves Hong Kong for Moscow with Cuba as possible destination
Edward Snowden, the man who leaked NSA suveillance programs because he was concerned that they violated American's privacy, slipped the leash in Hong Kong and headed for that bastion of civil liberties - Russia.
Possible final destinations include that defender of liberty, Cuba, and that shining example of tolerance and freedom, Venezuela.
Other possibilities include Ecuador and Iceland.
"It's a shocker," said Simon Young, a law professor with Hong Kong University. "I thought he was going to stay and fight it out. The U.S. government will be irate."
Russia's Interfax news agency quoted a source at the Aeroflot airline as saying there was a ticket in Snowden's name for a Moscow-Cuba flight. Itar-Tass news agency cited a source as saying Snowden would fly from Havana to Caracas, the Venezuelan capital.
The South China Morning Post said his final destination might be Ecuador or Iceland.
A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was unaware of Snowden's whereabouts or travel plans.
The WikiLeaks anti-secrecy website said it helped Snowden find "political asylum in a democratic country". It did not elaborate, other than to say Snowden was "currently over Russian airspace" with WikiLeaks legal advisers.
The White House had no comment on the WikiLeaks posting.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said last week he would not leave the sanctuary of the Ecuadorean Embassy in London even if Sweden stopped pursuing sexual assault claims against him because he feared arrest on the orders of the United States.
U.S. authorities have charged Snowden with theft of U.S. government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and wilful communication of classified communications intelligence to an unauthorized person, with the latter two charges falling under the U.S. Espionage Act.
The United States had asked Hong Kong, a special administrative region (SAR) of China, to send Snowden home.
"The U.S. government earlier on made a request to the HKSAR government for the issue of a provisional warrant of arrest against Mr Snowden," the Hong Kong government said in a statement.
"Since the documents provided by the U.S. government did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law, the HKSAR government has requested the U.S. government to provide additional information ... As the HKSAR government has yet to have sufficient information to process the request for provisional warrant of arrest, there is no legal basis to restrict Mr Snowden from leaving Hong Kong."
Don't you love Wikileaks' idea of a "democratic country"? Cuba, Venezuela, and Ecuador are hardly "free" and "democratic" but they have the virtue of hating America as much as Julian Assange. That's good enough for them.
Hong Kong used a technicality to spring Snowden, but it would have been years before he was extradited anyway. I can't wait to see how those who believe Snowden an untarnished hero react if he shows up in Castro's Cuba. This is a guy who has defined, all by himself, the limits of government snooping. Kind of scary to think he wants to live in a place that makes NSA snooping look like child's play.