June 24, 2013


[The unwillingness of the Hong Kong authorities to detain Mr. Snowden, and Ecuador’s public declaration that it was considering his asylum request, underscored just how little sympathy the United States is finding from several countries over the unveiling of its surveillance efforts.]
Kirill Kudryavtsev/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The passenger plane, flight SU 150 to Havana, from Moscow Sheremetyevo airport, 
on Monday before it took off without Edward J. Snowden.
MOSCOW — Edward J. Snowden, the former national security contractor accused of espionage, did not leave Moscow as expected on a flight to Havana on Monday, raising questions about what, if any, alternative travel plans he may have made.
It also raised the possibility that the Russian government had detained him, either to consider the demands by the Obama administration to intercept him and return him to the United States or perhaps to question him for Russia’s own purposes.
Mr. Snowden has not been seen publicly or photographed since his reported arrival in Moscow on Sunday afternoon from Hong Kong, and passengers on that flight interviewed at the airport could not confirm that he was on board.
The situation remained a confounding and undoubtedly infuriating one for American officials, who have charged Mr. Snowden with illegally disclosing classified documents about American surveillance programs.
On a visit to New Delhi, Secretary of State John Kerry emphasized on Monday that Russia should send Mr. Snowden to the United States. "I would urge them to live by the standards of the law,” Mr. Kerry said.
Security was extremely tight Monday at the gate at Sheremetyevo Airport as agents called for boarding the aircraft, part of a fleet shared by Aeroflot and Delta. Police officers in green, wide-brimmed hats stood around the plane on the tarmac, and the entrance to the gate inside the terminal was cordoned off with about 25 feet of blue ribbon.
Mr. Snowden was said to have reserved a ticket on the flight to Cuba, Aeroflot 150, in coach seat 17A. But just before the plane pulled away, Nikolay Solkolov, an Aeroflot employee at the gate, said that Mr. Snowden was not on board. “He is not there,” Mr. Sokolov said. “I was waiting myself.” A police officer asked a member of the ground crew if everyone had arrived. The reply was: “Minus five.”
Mr. Snowden was aided in his escape by WikiLeaks, the antisecrecy organization, whose founder said he helped arrange special refugee travel documents issued by Ecuador. There was no immediate comment from WikiLeaks on Mr. Snowden’s whereabouts. Earlier on Monday, the group posted a message on Twitter criticizing the United States.
“US bullying Russia for Snowden’s rendition is counterproductive. No self-respecting state would accept such unlawful demands,” the group wrote. The use of “rendition” was an explicit reference to the way the United States has handled terrorism suspects.
The unwillingness of the Hong Kong authorities to detain Mr. Snowden, and Ecuador’s public declaration that it was considering his asylum request, underscored just how little sympathy the United States is finding from several countries over the unveiling of its surveillance efforts.
Russia had seemed intent on allowing Mr. Snowden to transit through Moscow but at the highest levels of the Russian government, officials seemed to be pulling a page from a cold war playbook, coyly denying any knowledge about Mr. Snowden.
“Over all, we have no information about him,” Dmitri Peskov, the spokesman for President Vladimir V. Putin, told Reuters early on Monday.
Nikolay N. Zakharov, a spokesman for the Russian Federal Security Service, the F.S.B., declined to say if intelligence officials had met with Mr. Snowden during the roughly 21 hours that he spent at the transit area of the airport or had sought to get a look at any of the trove of secrets he is said to be carrying on several computers.
“On this question, we will not comment,” Mr. Zakharov said.
Although there were a scattering of tourists carrying bags from the duty-free shops preparing to board the plane, a large number of the passengers were journalists trailing Mr. Snowden on the Russia-to-Cuba leg of his extraordinary odyssey, which began early Sunday when he fled his hideout in Hong Kong.
Several journalists carrying American passports were ejected from the aircraft because of visa requirements to visit Cuba.
Diplomats and law enforcement officials from the United States warned countries in Latin America not to harbor Mr. Snowden or allow him to pass through to other destinations after he fled Hong Kong for Moscow, possibly en route to Ecuador or another nation where he could seek asylum.
There are no direct commercial flights from Moscow to Ecuador or to Venezuela, another potential destination of Mr. Snowden, and any stopover would create an opportunity for him to be seized by local authorities. Another possibility is that Mr. Snowden could leave Moscow on a private plane.
“The United States has been in touch via diplomatic and law enforcement channels with countries in the Western Hemisphere through which Snowden might transit or that could serve as final destinations. The U.S. is advising these governments that Snowden is wanted on felony charges, and as such should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel, other than is necessary to return him to the United States,” a State Department official in Washington said.
In New Delhi, Mr. Kerry said that the United States had extradited seven individuals to Russia in response to Russian extradition requests. “I think reciprocity in the enforcement of the law is pretty important,” he said.
Mr. Kerry said that it was ironic that Mr. Snowden may have been seeking the cooperation of China and Russia in his flight, given their positions in restricting Internet freedom. William Burns, the deputy secretary of state, has been in touch with Russian authorities on the Snowden matter, Mr. Kerry said.
It was unclear how Mr. Snowden spent his time at the airport or precisely where. The departure of the flight to Havana from Moscow came after an all-night vigil by journalists who were posted outside a hotel in the transit zone of the airport where Mr. Snowden was apparently staying. But on Monday morning, hotel staff said that no one named Snowden was staying there.
Russian news services had reported that Mr. Snowden would take the flight to Cuba, prompting a late rush for tickets from the horde of journalists gathered at the airport. But others dismissed it as a ruse to put the news media and others off Mr. Snowden’s trail.
The White House, in its first official statement released just after midnight Monday morning, expressed disappointment in Hong Kong’s decision to allow Mr. Snowden to leave and pressed Russia to turn him over, citing the cooperation between the two countries since the Boston Marathon bombings.
Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, said in an interview from his own refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London that he had raised Mr. Snowden’s case with Ecuador’s government and that his group had helped arrange the travel documents. Baltasar Garzón, the renowned Spanish jurist who advises WikiLeaks, said in a statement that “what is being done to Mr. Snowden and to Mr. Julian Assange — for making or facilitating disclosures in the public interest — is an assault against the people.”
Obama administration officials expressed frustration that Hong Kong allowed Mr. Snowden to board an Aeroflot plane bound for Moscow on Sunday despite the American request for his detention. But they did not revoke Mr. Snowden’s passport until Saturday and did not ask Interpol to issue a “red notice” seeking his arrest.
An administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said no red notice was requested because they are “most valuable when the whereabouts of a fugitive are unknown.” Mr. Snowden was known to be in Hong Kong, so his provisional arrest was sought under an existing American agreement with Hong Kong.
On Sunday, the Hong Kong authorities said that the American arrest request “did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law,” and therefore they could not legally stop Mr. Snowden from leaving. The Justice Department rejected this explanation and provided a timeline of interactions suggesting that the Hong Kong authorities first requested “additional information” on Friday.
“At no point, in all of our discussions through Friday, did the authorities in Hong Kong raise any issues regarding the sufficiency of the U.S.'s provisional arrest request,” a department official said. “In light of this, we find their decision to be particularly troubling.”
Legal experts said the administration appeared to have flubbed Mr. Snowden’s case. “What mystifies me is that the State Department didn’t revoke his passport after the charges were filed” on June 14, said David H. Laufman, a former federal prosecutor. “They missed an opportunity to freeze him in place.” He said he was also puzzled by the decision to unseal the charges on Friday rather than waiting until the defendant was in custody.
Mr. Assange said he did not know whether Mr. Snowden might be able to travel beyond Moscow using the Ecuadorean document. “Different airlines have different rules, so it’s a technical matter whether they will accept the document,” he said.
Mr. Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London a year ago to avoid being sent to Sweden for questioning in a sexual-offense investigation, but the British authorities have not permitted him to leave the country without risking arrest. Mr. Snowden could end up in a similar predicament, accepted by Ecuador or another country but unable to get there.
Mr. Snowden, who by his own account downloaded classified documents while working in Hawaii for the National Security Agency as an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton, has said he unveiled secret American surveillance programs because he believed they violated privacy boundaries.
American officials characterize it differently. “I don’t think this man is a whistle blower,” Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on “Face the Nation” on CBS. “Whatever his motives are, and I take him at face value, he could’ve stayed and faced the music. I don’t think running is a noble thought.”
David M. Herszenhorn and Ellen Barry reported from Moscow, and Peter Baker from Washington. Reporting was contributed by Scott Shane, Steven Lee Myers and Charlie Savage from Washington; Keith Bradsher from Hong Kong; Michael R. Gordon from New Delhi; Rick Gladstone from New York; and  Andrew Roth from Moscow.