US whistleblower Edward Snowden disappears from Hong Kong hotel
29-year-old Edward Snowden, an ex- CIA employee who leaked information regarding US phone and internet surveillance, has gone missing from the hotel he was staying in in Hong Kong.
Mr Snowden checked out of the hotel on Monday and has not been seen since. Radio Television Hong Kong , Hong Kong’s broadcaster, said that he had checked out of the Mira hotel, situated in Kowloon, on Monday, with Reuters news agency quoting hotel staff as saying that he had left at noon.
Although reports suggest that Mr Snowden may still be in Hong Kong, his precise whereabouts are currently unknown.
The leaks of Mr Snowden led to articles in newspapers and revelations that a US programme, known as Prism and run by the US National Security Agency (NSA), was seizing large amounts of both web and phone data. Mr Snowdon has previously said that he had an “obligation to help free people from oppression”.
In an interview with two journalists from The Guardian, Mr Snowden explained: “The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting.”
He added: “I don’t want to live in a society that does these sorts of things. I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded.”
There is speculation that the US may be pursuing a criminal investigation as a result of the leaks, but no extradition requests have been recorded as of yet. Despite the fact that the Chinese territory has an extradition treaty with the US, it could take months before attempts to bring Mr Snowden to America are made possible as he will be able to challenge the extradition case through the court before seeking to block it if he chooses.
News of the leaks has caused great controversy, with a petition that contains over 30,000 signatures being delivered to the White House website and calling for the pardon of Mr Snowdon.
Conversely, an opinion poll carried out by the Washington Post seems to suggest that most Americans when asked would accept the government monitoring phone records in order to fight terrorism.