WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Monday said it expects the Russian government to “look at all options available” to expel former government contractor Edward Snowden back to the United States to face espionage charges.
The White House National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the United States also registered strong objections to authorities in Hong Kong and China through diplomatic channels at the decision to let Snowden flee.
And “noted that such behaviour is detrimental to U.S.-Hong Kong and U.S.-China bilateral relations,” Hayden said.
President Barack Obama met earlier this month with Chinese President Xi Jinping in California and stressed the need for cooperation on cybersecurity problems. Just last week, Obama held talks in Northern Ireland with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the fringes of a Group of Eight summit.
Hayden said that given the intensified cooperation between the United States and Russia after the Boston Marathon bombings in April and a history of working together on law enforcement matters, the United States wanted Moscow to help on the Snowden case.
“We expect the Russian government to look at all options available to expel Mr. Snowden back to the U.S. to face justice for the crimes with which he is charged,” Hayden said.
Snowden landed in Moscow on Sunday and is believed to be seeking asylum in Ecuador.
A senior administration official said Snowden’s claim that he leaked details of the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance programs to protect democracy and individual rights is “belied by the protectors he has potentially chosen: China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador.”
“His failure to criticize these regimes suggests that his true motive throughout has been to injure the national security of the U.S., not to advance Internet freedom and free speech,” the official said.
U.S. authorities have charged Snowden with theft of federal government property, unauthorized communication of national defence information and wilful communication of classified communications intelligence to an unauthorized person, with the latter two charges falling under the U.S. Espionage Act.
Snowden’s revelations have become a major problem for Obama, who has found his domestic and international policy agenda sidelined as he scrambles to deflect accusations that U.S. surveillance practices violate privacy protections and civil rights. The president has said the measures were necessary to thwart attacks on the United States.
Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Stacey Joyce