Monday, June 24, 2013

How Snowden Planned His Departure from Hong Kong

NYT has the details:

For Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who has acknowledged leaking numerous documents about American surveillance operations around the world, the path to a sudden departure from Hong Kong late Sunday morning began over a dinner last Tuesday of a large pizza, fried chicken and sausages, washed down with Pepsi.

Albert Ho, one of Mr. Snowden’s lawyers, said that before the dinner began, Mr. Snowden insisted that everyone hide their cellphones in the refrigerator of the home where he was staying, to block any eavesdropping. Then began a two-hour conversation during which Mr. Snowden was deeply dismayed to learn that he could spend years in prison without access to a computer during litigation over whether he would be granted asylum here or surrendered to the United States, Mr. Ho said.

Staying cooped up in the cramped Hong Kong home of a local supporter was not bothersome to Mr. Snowden, but the prospect of losing his computer scared him.

“He didn’t go out, he spent all his time inside a tiny space, but he said it was O.K. because he had his computer,” Mr. Ho said. “If you were to deprive him of his computer, that would be totally intolerable.”

The outcome of that meeting, Mr. Ho said, was a decision by Mr. Snowden by Friday morning to have Mr. Ho pose two questions to the Hong Kong government: would he be released on bail if he were detained in Hong Kong at the request of the United States, and would the Hong Kong government interfere if Mr. Snowden tried to go to the airport and leave Hong Kong instead.

A person with a detailed knowledge of the Hong Kong government’s deliberations said that the government had been delighted to receive the questions. Leung Chun-ying, the chief executive, and his top advisers had been struggling through numerous meetings for days, canceling or postponing most other meetings, while trying to decide what to do in response to an American request for Mr. Snowden’s detention, even as public opinion in Hong Kong seemed to favor protecting the fugitive.[...]

The Hong Kong government said that it would not interfere with Mr. Snowden’s departure and even provided unobtrusive police protection for him as he went through the airport, both of them said.

But, Mr. Ho said, Mr. Snowden went through the same security and immigration channels as most passengers at the airport, rather than a special channel usually used for people involved in highly political cases — a sign that the Hong Kong government wanted to minimize its involvement in Mr. Snowden’s departure.

At the same time, the Hong Kong government’s encouragement for Mr. Snowden to leave, instead of a suggestion that he stay and fight any return to the United States, had persuaded him that staying was risky because the Hong Kong government might not be on his side. “He would not like to fight with the Hong Kong government, with the Chinese government and the U.S. government” against him, Mr. Ho said.[...]

Mr. Snowden, who has just turned 30, comes across as intelligent, analytical and quick-witted, Mr. Ho said. But he also came to Hong Kong from Honolulu without a well thought-out plan, while overestimating how free he would be to move around Hong Kong after his disclosures and underestimating the public attention he would receive, Mr. Ho added.

“He’s a kid, I really think he’s a kid, I think he never anticipated this would be such a big matter in Hong Kong,” Mr. Ho said, adding that, “He enjoys Pepsi, he prefers Pepsi to wine, that’s why I say he’s a kid.”

No comments:

Post a Comment