His stealthy movements, aided by the anti-secrecy WikiLeaks organization and its high-powered lawyers, played out like an international game of Where's Waldo. The American citizen — a traitor to some and a folk hero to others — kept a step ahead of his government, which has charged him with violating the Espionage Act and revoked his U.S. passport in an effort to bring him to ground.
In his rush to elude arrest, the onetime low-level computer analyst appeared to be showing up the most powerful national security apparatus in the world, just as his campaign to expose vast U.S. surveillance programs had embarrassed the Obama administration by contradicting the president's pledge to run a government with an "unprecedented level of openness."
With the collusion of several governments, Snowden managed over the weekend to make Washington appear stumped in its attempts to extradite the former National Security Agency contract worker for leaking details of secret phone and Internet eavesdropping programs.
The drama afforded nations with histories of being thorns in the side of the U.S. a rare and low-cost opportunity to frustrate the administration.
Nevertheless, administration officials remained confident that, despite not succeeding in having Snowden detained in Hong Kong, they will eventually catch their man. "The belt will tighten. We will get him," said one Department of Justice official, speaking anonymously because of the delicate matter of handling both a criminal case and an awkward game of multinational diplomacy.
President Obama is not the only party to the drama caught in the contradictory politics of secrecy. Snowden has portrayed himself as a campaigner for openness and freedom of the press. However, Ecuador, his apparent haven in South America, has had a checkered history on that score. This month, the Ecuadorean Congress, at President Rafael Correa's insistence, passed a law that prohibits news organizations from publishing classified or confidential government documents or material from personal documents without their owner's permission.
Any hopes that Justice Department and national security officials might have had for gaining a helping hand from Moscow appeared frustrated Sunday by indications that Russia, like Hong Kong, did not appear to want to keep Snowden for long.
"Moscow sees his presence as a big unasked-for headache and pretends he is not here," said Andrei Kortunov, president of the New Eurasia Foundation, a Moscow think tank. "Moscow is being very cautious as on the one hand it doesn't want to further damage their relations with the United States and on the other, it doesn't want to appear [to be] bowing to Americans."
U.S. prosecutors charged Snowden on a criminal complaint filed under seal June 14, accusing him of unauthorized communication of national defense information and providing U.S. classified intelligence to an unauthorized person, both Espionage Act violations, as well as theft of government property. He faces 30 years in prison, and potentially much more if federal prosecutors follow through with a grand jury indictment in the next 60 days, which they plan to do.
"The chase is on," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who agreed that time was of the essence, especially since Snowden has suggested that he is on the brink of revealing more classified secrets.
"I wanna get him caught and brought back for trial," the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "And I think we need to know exactly what he has. He could have a lot, lot more. It may really put people in jeopardy."
Washington was trying to anticipate Snowden's moves and halt his dash toward a safe harbor.
"Persons wanted on felony charges, such as Mr. Snowden, should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel, other than is necessary to return him to the United States," said Jen Psaki, spokeswoman at the State Department.
The Justice Department's spokeswoman, Nanda Chitre, said, "We will pursue relevant law enforcement cooperation with other countries where Mr. Snowden may be attempting to travel."
The prosecution of Snowden became public Friday evening when the Justice Department unsealed the week-old criminal complaint. It was at that moment, said one Justice Department official, that discussions between the United States and Hong Kong went flat: The spying charges "raised political concerns and put a new dimension on things," he said.
Snowden, the official said, was never "detained" in Hong Kong or held "under any kind of police protection" while he was residing at an undisclosed safe house. Crucially for the U.S., there was a delay in getting Hong Kong to respond to the criminal warrant and arranging an extradition hearing.
Top officials in Hong Kong also needed to brief the Chinese government in Beijing about detaining Snowden for extradition to the United States.
"There was a lot of red tape, but we thought it would get done," the official said.
Jeffrey Bader, a senior White House advisor on China during Obama's first term, surmised that Hong Kong would have had latitude to decide what to do with Snowden without Beijing's interference. Either way, he said, Hong Kong was "probably happy to get this off their plate."
Intelligentsias, eminent political analysts and of course intelligence thinks tanks of the friendly countries are bewildered to observe red that when Israel is in the slightest trouble US jumps in the hottest water to help accepting it as the best friend and most trusted ally in the world. How can they be enjoying eating milk butter bread and honey and sucking banana with a slanting smile on the face.
As if asking the Secretary of State how is your President? Unstead of jumping to help US in such a situation.
Indeed this Jewish state is a real friend of the Lone Super power that became world's fourth military power with US tax Paid $.of the middle class and poor Americans. American Jew Call them a liabilities of the nation. What a irony of fact.
If the terrorist country wanted to help they could have taken of Snowden and said him good bye forever not to return to the world ever again. After all what is the use of becoming a world famous assassin PM if can't come to the help of nation that calls it the most trusted ally.
Isn't it just disgusting to see such ungrateful nation of so called friend and most trusted ally in the world. Please don't mind don't you think we should change our thinking with regard to such a good friend and ally.