Snowden should not be allowed to travel: US
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Snowden should not be allowed to travel: US

The United States yesterday asked countries not to allow American whistleblower Edward Snowden to proceed ahead with any other international travel except for coming back home.

world Updated: Jun 24, 2013 17:04 IST

The United States on Saturday asked countries not to allow American whistleblower Edward Snowden to proceed ahead with any other international travel except for coming back home.

Computer technician Snowden, who leaked the secretive internet and phone surveillance programs of the US, is wanted in the United States of felony charges.

"As is routine and consistent with US regulations, persons with felony arrest warrants are subject to having their passport revoked. Such a revocation does not affect citizenship status," State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said.

"Persons wanted on felony charges, such as Snowden, should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel, other than is necessary to return him to the United States," Psaki said in a statement after Snowden fled from Hong Kong to Moscow and the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister said that he has sought asylum in his country.

"Because of the Privacy Act, we cannot comment on Snowden's passport specifically," Psaki said amidst reports that Snowden has reached Moscow and that he might be headed to Ecuador through Havana.

According to a federal complaint, filed last week in the US District Court of Virginia, but unsealed Friday, Snowden has been charged with espionage, theft of government data and conveying classified information to unauthorized person.

If extradited to the US and convicted in the court, he faces 10 years of imprisonment on each of these charges.

The documents leaked by Snowden, first published in The Guardian and The Washington Post, revealed details of the secret programs of the National Security Agency about getting access to phone records of millions of Americans and getting internet usage details of suspected foreign terrorists.

The Obama Administration has defended the program arguing that this has helped foil more than 50 terrorist plots in 20 countries, which is understood to including India.

However, this has created an outrage among a number of countries like Germany and India, which have strongly raised the issue with the United States.

According to news reports, the US is asking Cuba, Ecuador and Venezuela not to let in Snowden, who leaked information about NSA surveillance programs.

"He betrayed the trust and confidence we had in him. This was an individual with top-secret clearance, whose duty it was to administer these networks.

He betrayed that confidence and stole some of our secrets," Gen Keith Alexander, Commander of US Cyber Command and Director of National Security Agency, told the ABC news in an interview.

"We will continue to discuss this matter with Hong Kong and pursue relevant law enforcement cooperation with other countries where Snowden may be attempting to travel," Justice Department spokesperson Nanda Chitre said.

Senator Charles Schumer, who is the third-ranking Senate Democratic leader, warned Rusia of "serious consequences" if it gives shelter to Snowden.

"What's infuriating here is President (Vladimir) Putin of Russia abetting Snowden's escape," Schumer told the CNN.

"I think it will have serious consequences for the United States-Russia relationship," he said.

In a statement, Wikileaks said it is providing legal help to Snowden to get him asylum in a third country.

"He is bound for a democratic nation via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisors from WikiLeaks," the statement said.

"Snowden requested that WikiLeaks use its legal expertise and experience to secure his safety. Once Snowden arrives at his final destination his request will be formally processed," Wikileaks said.

In his interview to the ABC news, Alexander said the US is now putting in place actions that would give it the ability to track the system administrators, what they're doing, what they're taking, a two-man rule.

"We've changed the passwords. But at the end of the day, we have to trust that our people are going to do the right thing. This is an extremely important mission, defending our country. When they betray that trust, well, then we have to push it over to the Department of Justice and others for the appropriate action," he said.

"It's clearly an individual who's betrayed the trust and confidence we had in him. This is an individual who's not acting, in my opinion, with noble intent. And when you think about what our mission is, I want to jump into that, because I think it reflects on the question you're asking," he said.

"My first responsibility to the American people is to defend this nation. And when you think about it, defending the nation, let's look back at 9/11 and what happened. The intel community failed to connect the dots on 9/11. And much of what we've done since then were to give us the capabilities - this is the business record FISA, what's sometimes called Section 215, and the FAA 702 - two capabilities that help us connect the dots," Alexander said.

First Published: Jun 24, 2013 17:02 IST