The Russian Aeroflot pasenger jet on which NSA leaker Edward Snowden had booked a flight to Cuba departed Moscow today - without Edward Snowden.
An Aeroflot representative who wouldn't give her name told The Associated Press that Snowden wasn't on flight SU150 to Havana. AP reporters on the flight couldn't see him.
The Interfax news agency also quoted an unidentified Russian security source in Moscow as saying that Snowden wasn't on the plane.
The airline said earlier Snowden registered for the flight using his U.S. passport, which American officials say has been annulled.
Snowden arrived in Moscow on Sunday from Hong Kong, where he had been hiding for several weeks to evade U.S. justice. Ecuador is considering Snowden's asylum application.
After spending a night in Moscow's airport, the former National Security Agency contractor -- and admitted leaker of state secrets -- had been expected to fly to Cuba and Venezuela en route to possible asylum in Ecuador.
Snowden, also a former CIA technician, fled Hong Kong to dodge U.S. efforts to extradite him on espionage charges. Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said his government had received an asylum request, adding Monday that the decision "has to do with freedom of expression and with the security of citizens around the world." The anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks also said it would help Snowden.
Ecuador has rejected the United States' previous efforts at cooperation, and has been helping WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange avoid prosecution by allowing him to stay at its embassy in London.
This may be an ominous development, or it may be a bit of misdirection from Snowden and his handlers. Ominous because you wouldn't put it past Putin to take Snowden into custody and try to exchange him for someone we have in our jails that the Russians may want. Or perhaps Putin might want to see if he could wring any intelligence out of the young man before he leaves the country.
But I think it more likely that this is a bit of misdirection from Snowden and his helpers. If he is as paranoid (some would say with good reason) about the US trying to kill him, announcing 24 hours beforehand where he was going and what flight he'd be on would be stupid from a security standpoint. In order to stay safe, they may have made everyone think they were going to be on that flight and then take another flight - perhaps using a different carrier - to a different destination.
I'm sure he'll turn up somewhere soon. And it is likely to be someplace where Snowden will be out of reach of the US government.