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STATE OF THE UNION WITH CANDY CROWLEY
Edward Snowden Has Flown to Russia
Aired June 23, 2013 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN HOST: I'm Candy Crowley in Washington with breaking news being seen around the world, the sudden departure of NSA leaker Edward Snowden out of Hong Kong.
The shadowy group WikiLeaks, who is apparently helping him, is reporting that Snowden has landed in Moscow. He is facing espionage charges in the U.S. for leaking information about the government's domestic surveillance program.
CNN has resources deployed across the globe, tracking this story, Phil Black in Moscow, Nic Robertson in Hong Kong, Patrick Oppmann in Cuba, John King and Jill Dougherty here in Washington, Dan Lothian at the White House, Joe Johns covering the Justice Department for us, Dana Bash -- we're all over it.
So we want to start first by going to CNN's Phil Black, who joins us live from Moscow.
Phil, I have to assume you are outside the airport. What do you know about the whereabouts of Snowden?
PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Candy, we're still at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, one of Moscow's two biggest airports here. This is the area where the flight of Snowden was done, flew in on -- a couple of hours ago and where he has not been seen by us or by anyone else here since.
So he has not emerged from the arrivals area of this airport. We believe he is still airside at this airport. There are various rumors and speculation here among the journalists and the Russian media and so forth about just where he is, what he's doing, what his intentions are. And we can't confirm any of it really, but I think it is still logical to assume that he is still airside at this point and he intends to fly to another country at some point in the near future. Candy?
CROWLEY; Phil Black standing by in Moscow for us. Phil, can you tell us whether anyone on the plane -- have you talked to anyone on the plane about Snowden's presence on the plane?
BLACK: Yeah, we've spoken to passengers who said, yes, they indeed saw him; they were very certain that it was him, no doubt about that whatsoever. We haven't heard any stories from any of his behavior or anything that he got (inaudible) on the plane itself, but (inaudible) is a very indication as to what perhaps his next move may be. A number of passengers report a black car pulling up next to the plane on the tarmac, one man getting off. We presume at this stage this was Snowden. He's likely to be removed from the aircraft, placed directly into the car, and it looked like a diplomatic vehicle.
Now, at the moment, where I'm standing here at the airport, there are a number of (inaudible) and diplomatic individuals, including one that was here a short time ago bearing the Ecuadorian flag. We assume that was the car of the ambassador of Ecuador here in Moscow. It would appear from this that he is receiving some sort of diplomatic assistance. Ecuador has always been one of the countries that it was thought Snowden could reach out to to seek some sort of protection that could ultimately try and seek refuge there.
At the moment, as I say, we've seen Ecuadorian officials, perhaps the Ecuadorian ambassador's car. All of this leads us to believe that he is still here, eventually heading towards that country in the near future. Candy?
CROWLEY: Phil Black in Moscow for us. Again, that's where we think Ed Snowden is. We know he came from Hong Kong. I want to bring in our correspondent Nic Robertson, who is in Hong Kong.
Nic, we've already seen this back and forth. We saw Hong Kong say, well, really we had to let him go because we didn't have the proper paperwork. Justice pushed back very hard and said, no, no, we were getting the proper paperwork and they know that.
What's the latest in this back and forth?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest is we're now hearing from Beijing, and of course there has been a lot of speculation of the role that Beijing would play in all of this. Were they going to blow a favorable wind to allow Edward Snowden to move on from Hong Kong, influence Hong Kong authorities?
And this is what we're hearing from the foreign ministry spokesman in Beijing at the moment, and I will read this to you right now: "We have noted relevant reports but are not aware of the specifics. We will continue to follow its development. Hong Kong is ruled by law on the basis of the basic law of Hong Kong special administrative region and the principle of one country, two systems. The central government always respects the Hong Kong government's handling of affairs in accordance with the law."
However, what is also interesting is we've also heard from the foreign ministry spokesman, also saying tonight that China is gravely concerned about the cyber hacking that they're learning of by U.S. government agencies, that they're learning about through media reports obviously associated with Edward Snowden.
So it seems, on the one hand, Beijing is, sort of, hands off, and the other they're gravely concerned by this. Candy?
CROWLEY: Nic Robertson. This gets curiouser and curiouser, I think, as Alice would say, with China acting as though it had no idea this was going on and they're following it closely. How close is that, do you think, to the actuality of what went on and the decision to let Snowden, or to push Snowden onto that plane?
ROBERTSON: I think a very acute analysis of what has happened here is that Edward Snowden has been let out the door because Hong Kong doesn't want to be embarrassed by pressure from -- pressure from Beijing and its friend the United States. The United States has had good extradition relations with Hong Kong in the past. They didn't know what to do. This was the most convenient thing.
A lawyer here who has been watching the Snowden case very closely has said to us, absolutely, Hong Kong had the grounds to issue an arrest warrant. All they needed to know for Hong Kong law was that Edward Snowden was wanted for prosecution in the United States and that he was in Hong Kong, and that should have been enough.
So the indications are right now Hong Kong thought it was in a rock and a hard place. The wind's blown from Beijing and Edward Snowden's gone out through the door as it opened in that wind. Candy?
CROWLEY: Nic Robertson, thank you.
WikiLeaks says it is helping to broker asylum for Edward Snowden in what the group says is a democratic country. Earlier in the week, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange spoke about his organization's efforts.
JULIAN ASSANGE, FOUNDER, WikiLeaks: We are in touch with Mr. Snowden's legal team and have been -- are involved in the process of brokering his asylum in Iceland.
CROWLEY: In addition to Iceland, there are other possible destinations for Edward Snowden. For instance, he could go to Havana. There has been speculation that -- that, of course, is on the way to Venezuela. So we want to go ahead and bring in our Patrick Oppmann now.
Patrick, you know, I hesitate to ask you if there is any sign that Ed Snowden is going to show up there because we certainly had no news that he was leaving Hong Kong. What kind of reception do you think he might get should he drop by Havana?
OPPMANN: You know, it would be fascinating because, of course, he would be so close to the United States but still out of reach of American justice.
And, Candy, you know, I've been talking to Cuban officials all morning long, and at least, on the record, they're claiming that they're monitoring the media reports but there's been no deal struck either to let Edward Snowden arrive here in Cuba or have safe passage through another country.
But, you know, Julian Assange had recently given Edward Snowden advice that -- come to a Latin American country that will be friendly to your efforts to stay out of the grips of American authorities out of their custody.
So perhaps he is following that track and trying to find a country like Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba, that would give him a very, very warm welcome. Cuba's official media has painted him as something of a hero. And I was just talking to a Cuban official last week about this who said that it seemed like Edward Snowden was too good to be true. They just couldn't believe that he was giving away this kind of information and for free, not only to the world, but to many intelligence services.
So it's just a question now if Cuban authorities are going to get a chance to find out for themselves. Candy?
CROWLEY: Thanks so much. Patrick Oppmann in Havana.
Watch the skies over there. We're not sure what's headed this way.
John King will be leading our coverage of this story in the next hour. When we return -- oh, sorry. And so here we are. John King, you're here...
... along with...
KING: A couple interesting points. If you talk to intelligence sources -- I just spoke to somebody who has a long history in U.S. intelligence who said the administration should be deeply concerned, number one, that the Chinese let him go -- and Nic Robertson, I think, put it in the right tone, yes, Hong Kong is different; it's not that different.
And so number one is they said, if you're in Hong Kong for that period of time, Mr. Snowden was monitored every step of the way. Any computer activity was monitored every step of the way, and there likely were some conversations with Chinese state security.
Number two, now the question is the Interfax news agency in Russia is reporting that the CIA director, John Brennan, made a secret trip to Moscow in the last 48 hours. And the implication there is -- and we don't know this -- that Interfax is reporting Mr. Brennan went there. The implication is that they had some sort of a heads-up of where Mr. Snowden was going and the CIA director was going to speak to Moscow to essentially say, if the Chinese don't stop him, we need you to stop him.
So it will be very interesting to watch what happens on the ground in Moscow.
If you listen -- you've had this conversation before -- what's interesting this morning, you just had Mr. Assange there, of WikiLeaks, saying we're trying to help Mr. Snowden.
Now, he, of course, is in the embassy of Ecuador still. Listen to the head of the NSA this morning, the National Security Agency, General Keith Alexander, when asked about this on ABC, almost pretends that this WikiLeaks is some new phenomenon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASSANGE: We are in touch with Mr. Snowden...
GEN. KEITH ALEXANDER, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: I have no opinion on WikiLeaks. I really don't track them. I don't know -- I really don't know who WikiLeaks are other than this Assange person. My job, again, defend the nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: You have to have some sympathy for good public servants like General Alexander whose job it is to keep secrets. They're not out communicating all that publicly. But when you say we don't really know who WikiLeaks is, after how much they've been in the news in recent years -- just the other day the FBI director, again, another excellent public servant, saying we have drones in the United States but we're just now developing the protocols.
What they say in public -- what the administration's top people said in public in recent days, Candy -- and, again, they're both, Bob Mueller and General Alexander, good public servants, but their public comments give -- lead you to the impression that they're, kind of, making this up as they go along, which is unsettling.
CROWLEY: It does have a bit of a Keystone Cop feel to it at this point, just because we've got this guy, sort of, running all over the globe with the U.S. saying that we want him here, with countries that really ought to play ball, or at least the U.S. would hope.
I want you all to stand by. We do have our panel of correspondents, Jill Dougherty, Joe Johns is here; Dana Bash is with us; Dan Lothian is at the White House. Stick with us. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EDWARD SNOWDEN, NSA LEAKER: Because even if you're not doing anything wrong, you're being watched and recorded. And the -- the storage capability of these systems increases every year consistently by orders of magnitude to where it's getting to the point you don't have to have done anything wrong; you simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody, even by a wrong call, and then they can use the system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you've ever made, every friend you've ever discussed something with, and attack you on that basis to, sort of, derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: By now you know that is Ed Snowden, who we believe is currently in Moscow headed for parts unknown. Joining me now, CNN correspondents Jill Dougherty, John King, Joe Johns, Dana Bash.
Edward Snowden not expected to stay in Russia. We want to look at a map of all the possible places it's speculated he might go. So from Russia to Iceland, Russia to Havana to Ecuador, or to Venezuela.
Jill, make something of this for us.
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right. Well, let's start where he is right now. He's in Moscow, but he may not have a Russian visa. So the latest we are hearing -- and, again, nobody really knows the whole story, but from Russian news agency Interfax is that he is still at the airport or at an airport hotel -- let's call it that -- where he would rest and then go on to his next location.
There were the reports about the diplomatic car from the Ecuadorian embassy. Nobody really knows precisely could he be on that? My tendency is to think not if he didn't have a visa. The Russians will be careful, I think, to adhere to every little, you know, jot of the law, even though the big picture is this guy's getting away.
So where could he go? Number one, we've been talking about Iceland. Iceland possible, but it feels, kind of, like old news to me.
I think it's this nexus of the three countries in Latin America, Venezuela, Cuba and Ecuador. They are all united by, let's say, the person who used to run Venezuela, Hugo Chavez. Hugo Chavez now has been replaced -- he is dead -- by Nicolas Maduro. It's still socialist countries, very complicated relations with the United States, and a tendency to want to stick it to the U.S. So it could be those countries.
CROWLEY: Well, which is an interesting choice. Dana, I want to bring you in. Because we heard from Julian Assange that he wanted to go to some -- an open democracy somewhere, and I'm not sure that's where I'd head if I were looking for a press-friendly open democracy, Venezuela, Cuba or Ecuador.
The congressional reaction -- I heard some of it this morning from Senator Schumer, who was furious with the Russians; (inaudible) Senator Rand Paul with a slightly different view.
What -- what is the -- in general have you been able to pick up?
DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh, absolutely outraged. The fact that one of the top-ranking Democrats went after Vladimir Putin the way he did, Chuck Schumer, to you this morning, saying that he is aiding and abetting a fugitive, somebody who broke the law, in his view, in the United States, is pretty strong.
We just got a new statement from Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who is a Republican from southern Florida. She is a Cuban-American. She also has a -- a top role on the Foreign Affairs Committee. And here's what she said. "I'm concerned that Castro or Maduro" -- speaking of Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela -- can use the NSA leaker as a bargaining chip to get more concessions from the Obama administration. Cuba has a sophisticated espionage service that controls the Venezuelan regime and undermines U.S. interests. If the NSA leaker shares our intelligence capabilities with either authoritarian state, it would further jeopardize our national security."
Clearly, they're not buying the idea that he's looking for democracy. He's looking for a place that dislikes America enough that they're going to harbor him and help him.
CROWLEY: Well, and supposedly he's carting around, Joe, four computers full of information, we know not of what. So this is obviously a...
JOE JOHNS, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: A big concern for the United States.
CROWLEY: A big concern to the U.S. I want to, since Dana mentioned -- let me just play Chuck Schumer because I want to bring all of you all in here on the U.S.-Russian relationship and what this does for it.
Here was Chuck Schumer this morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, D-NEW YORK: What's infuriating here is Prime Minister Putin of Russia aiding and abetting Snowden's escape. The bottom line is very simple. Allies are supposed to treat each other in decent ways. And Putin always seems almost eager to put a finger in the eye of the United States, whether it is Syria, Iran and now of course with Snowden. That's not how allies should treat one another, and I think it will have serious consequences for the United States- Russia relationship.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CROWLEY: So let's talk about serious consequences. Like...
JOHNS: Like what?
CROWLEY: Like, you know, they're not helping us in Syria. They clearly had a fractious discussion recently at the G-8. So what is there really the U.S. can do?
JOHNS: There's not a whole lot they can do. The Justice Department -- somebody on background saying today they have concerns about this; they need to talk to Hong Kong a little bit more about it. But the fact of the matter is, from the United States perspective, they had a warrant, a provisional warrant, and they said that this was essentially an extradition request that for all intents and purposes met all of the requirements.
So they had to talk a little bit about it, a couple more questions, and then, boom, Friday night he's gone.
CROWLEY: On a plane.
JOHNS: Right. So -- so it's, kind of, a tough situation for the United States.
CROWLEY: With both Hong Kong and Moscow -- I know, Jill, you spent so many years there and understand that country well. Either one of you, what does this mean for U.S. relations?
DOUGHERTY: I think it's really bad. I think what's going to happen is each place, Hong Kong, perhaps China, and Russia will all have deniability: "Oh, I'm sorry; we didn't have the right documents," Hong Kong will say. China will say, "Sorry, Hong Kong makes the decisions." Russia will say, "Well, god, we didn't know. He didn't have a visa, I don't know. He was just - "
CROWLEY: The guy showed up.
DOUGHERTY: So everybody will have deniability, but in the end, it is going to be, I think, politically exactly what's happening. There's going to be fury in relationships that are already really bad.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And it's embarrassing to a president when he took office said one of his top priorities in the world was to restore the U.S. standing. His argument was that George W. Bush had fritted away U.S. standing in the world because of the unpopularity of the Iraq war.
Jill knows this is better than I do. Relations with Russia and especially with Putin who was then prime minister, now is back being president, deteriorated quite a bit at the end of the Bush administration. George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin always had a relationship, remember very early on, Bush looked into his soul. The president -- President Bush came to regret that comment but they did have a personal bond from their time together where they could go into a room on the tough ones and look each other in the eye.
President Putin and President Obama don't have a relationship. And President Putin to the point seems to -- does seem to want to go out of his way, as Senator Schumer said, whenever he can publicly, not just privately, publicly stick it to this president.
CROWLEY: And so what in the end does it gain Snowden to go to one of these countries? I mean, obviously he gets out of the reach of the U.S. but beyond that.
DOUGHERTY: Candy, I don't think anybody knows what his true motives are.
DOUGHERTY: I think that's one of the problems --
CROWLEY: The why part.
DOUGHERTY: What Ross (INAUDIBLE) was saying is absolutely. true. Cuban intelligence has for years had very, very good connections with former Soviet Union, et cetera. These guys share and they're very sophisticated. They share information. But did Snowden really want to give them the information? Because I would argue that, listen, you don't have to pump him too much. He's ready to tell everything. And that we can expect every day from now until eternity we're going to have leaks.
BASH: And, Jill, that point is really important that we don't really know what's going on here. We don't know his motivations. And you talk to people on Capitol Hill, particularly in the Intelligence Committee, so we're getting briefings all the time. That's what clearly scares them to death.
BASH: They don't know what he knows and what he's willing to give up.
CROWLEY: Let me hold you, guys. We going to have some time on the other side of this. We want to take a break now, but these are live pictures outside the airport in Moscow. Somewhere in there we believe is Edward Snowden. Where he's headed from here and what sort of vehicle, we have no idea. But stay tuned and we'll figure it out. Be right back.
CROWLEY: We are following breaking news of NSA leaker Edward Snowden who landed in Moscow a while back.
Joining me now CNN's -- I'm sorry? Sorry, we don't have Fareed at this point, is that correct? OK. We do have a Reuter's report I do want to throw out to you all that the ambassador in Moscow, the ambassador to Ecuador told Reuters that he was going to a Moscow airport hotel to talk to Snowden. And the conversation will be about visas, I'm just guessing.
DOUGHERTY: I would think. I mean, he could certainly issue a visa to Snowden. I think no problem. And then Snowden is free really you would think to get on that plane. Because, again, we've got this strange limbo where he's not really, really in Russia. He's a transit passenger. So he gets his visa to Ecuador and off he goes.
KING: But he -- she is right under the law and under the international travel rules he's not technically in Russia because he hasn't left the airport.
DOUGHERTY: Unlike technically Beijing has nothing to do with --
KING: I'm sorry, but let's step back and remember, what is the United States' complaint against China normally? They're too authoritarian. Right? They have a -- you can't be in China. If you've ever traveled in China, you can't go anywhere. You're being watched no matter what you do especially if you're somebody of high profile. Mr. Snowden was high enough profile, trust me.
Russia, the same thing. A very good state security service. Again, one of the -- this is a Tom Clancy novel, although you'd probably get laughed at if you try to sell it to Hollywood because of the comedy parts of it. But if inter-fax news agency is correct, the CIA director, who was in Europe on other business, made a secret trip to Moscow in the last 48 hours. And again --
CROWLEY: Now there are other issues. There is Syria, there's, you know, other things. But --
KING: There are other issues. But if -- if, and I just will underline if, if he went there with some head's up that Mr. Snowden might be passing through, and then Mr. Snowden gets on a plane off to Latin America somewhere, that would be another embarrassment for the Obama administration.
CROWLEY: Joe, do you get the sense talking to your sources that the Justice department was surprised?
CROWLEY: Or was there any sign of a -- sort of a heads up?
JOHNS: I definitely get the impression that the Justice department was surprised. I mean, they had the warning. They were totally prepared to get Hong Kong involved in the situation. Hong Kong asked a few more questions. They say they're answering those few more questions and then the guy is gone. So it's clear that they're concerned about it, they want to talk to Hong Kong more about it, and this probably sort of caught them unawares.
CROWLEY: Probably like the barn door shut thing but OK.
BASH: And if you take a step back and look at this, and think about what we're talking about here and that is, the government knowing everything you do and everywhere you go and listening to all your conversations, which obviously we know is not true, but that's sort of the impression that has been left, and the irony that they can't find this guy who is responsible, obviously there are diplomatic reasons for this, it sort of makes you scratch your head and saying --
CROWLEY: Hang on, you all. I want to -- I want to bring up, we found Fareed Zakaria, who was easier than finding Edward Snowden.
Fareed, give me your take on what's going on right now.
FAREED ZAKARIA, HOST, FAREED ZAKARIA GPS: Well, I think that -- I'm not as surprised perhaps because you have to look at it from the point of view of these other countries. What they see is this huge operation is spying mostly on them. Remember, there's all these questions about how legal it is to -- to do the stuff, but look at American citizens.
There is no question that the NSA does it and does it actively with all these other countries. And for China, this was a gold mine because it came right after we had been accusing them of cyber attacks. And I'm not talking about the justness of the situation. I just mean from an -- from a PR point of view. The Chinese look at this and say this is fantastic, we now have the Americans on the defensive.
And in that context, particularly for domestic reasons in China, I think it would have been difficult for them to have been seen to be cooperating in helping a guy who had unmasked this whole -- this whole affair.
CROWLEY: Fareed, I -- first, I want to just remind my viewers that this is the scene outside the airport in Moscow. Somewhere inside there we believe is Edward Snowden and perhaps the ambassador from Russia to Ecuador.
So let me ask you, Fareed. Why Ecuador? I mean, what does that bring to the table instead of Cuba or Venezuela?
ZAKARIA: Ecuador, I think, you know, to be honest, they have been very cooperative in these kinds of things. It's anti-American president, Rafael Correa. He is -- Ecuador is an easy country to live in. Quito is a nice -- is a nice city. There is an irony here, though, which is that Julian Assange has taken asylum in Ecuador, he's in the London embassy of the Ecuadorian government, but that is still technically Ecuador.
And now Snowden seems about to take it. And these guys believe in information being free. And everybody knowing everything. Ecuador, of course, has a terrible record with regard to press freedoms. Anybody who writes things against the government and the president are routinely thrown in jail, harassed. So here they are taking refuge in a country that has an appalling record with regard to freedom of speech supposedly as avatars of free information.
CROWLEY: Yes. It's -- we're rife with irony here, I think, Fareed. When you -- I don't know if you heard the response from Beijing today which basically was, hey, you know, Hong Kong makes its own decisions and we're kind of monitoring what's going on here. You're not buying that, right?
ZAKARIA: Oh, good lord, no. Even within the one country, two systems framework that Beijing agreed to with the unification of Hong Kong, that is to say we're all part of one country, but you have your system and we have ours, it's absolutely clear in that document that national security policy is run by Beijing and that Beijing trumps Hong Kong on -- on any of those issues. So there's absolutely no question this decision came out of Beijing.
And as I say, you know, if you were to reverse the roles, you can understand what it would look like to them, or to the Russians. They look at this guy as somebody who's uncovered the fact that the United States has this vast intelligence apparatus. I would argue it's a legitimate thing and, you know, of all these countries would do it we just have greater capacities than others do. But they don't want to actively cooperate, I suppose, in the -- in that whole system.
CROWLEY: Fareed, thanks for chiming in here. Hope you'll stick with us.
When we come back, we will look into a reported meeting between Ecuador's ambassador of Russia and Edward Snowden.
CROWLEY: Welcome back to a special edition of STATE OF THE UNION. I have all my colleagues here.
Jill, I want to go to you because I know we're getting a little more information about what the U.S. is doing right now.
DOUGHERTY: Right. Coming from Elise Labott who's traveling with the secretary. U.S. asking Cuba -- reaching out to Cuba and Venezuela and to Ecuador, asking them not to let him in or if he's there to expel him to the United States.
CROWLEY: Joe, I want to -- I now want to bring in Tom Fuentes, a former deputy director of the FBI.
Tom, in dealing with these countries, you -- here you have a man who there are espionage charges against him. We want him back in the U.S.. Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador don't sound to me like fertile territory to be doing favors for the U.S. How you do you get this guy back in the U.S. for trial?
TOM FUENTES, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: Well, my understanding, Candy, is that his passport finally was revoked by State Department last week. If that's true, then he's going to have difficulty flying around unless one of these organizations that's backing him such as WikiLeaks has made arrangements somehow to get another country to give him a passport so that he has a lawful travel document.
But normally if you're going to enter a country especially if they require a visa, they also require to get that visa a passport that will be valid for at least six months following the date of the entry. So if in fact his passport has been revoked, he's going to have some problems just flying around to wherever he wants to go.
CROWLEY: Well, except for we do know that he flew from Hong Kong to Moscow.
FUENTES: Well, he may have gotten out of there. They may not have known it at the time. We're not sure if the State Department had already transmitted certified letters saying we've revoked his passport. So -- it may have been possible for him to get on that flight. But now that it's becoming more evident of where he's trying to go, I would think the State Department could convey that message officially and quickly to these countries that he's not traveling on a valid U.S. passport.
CROWLEY: Tom, hang on a minute. We have Bob Baer, former CIA officer.
Bob, to you, sort of the same question. How do you -- and Tom says they've revoked his passport. Perhaps didn't notify Hong Kong in time. He's now in Moscow. Is that enough to keep him there and if not, how does -- is there any way to get to Snowden if he goes someplace like Venezuela or Havana, Cuba, or -- or Ecuador? ROBERT BAER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, let me say first of all, he's clearly going to Russia with permission from Moscow. The Russians know he doesn't have a passport. I mean, you know, that he's wanted by the United States.
This is a political affront to Washington. They did it on purpose. Where they decide to send him after Moscow, obviously we don't know. But the Russians could detain him if they wanted, they could turn them over to us. But I think they get enormous political advantage out of this not to mention talking to him about what the National Security Agency is doing against Russia. They have enormous interest in finding that out.
You know, if I were the KGB, I would ask that question. I would stop him, I would take him off the airplane, but I'm a suspicious sort. But at this point, it's a political --
Yes. It's a political issue. You know? And I -- this guy is very valuable. This is a huge, you know, espionage catastrophe for the United States. I just can't tell you how bad it is and in the desire of these countries to get a hold of him and use him, whether it's Havana or Caracas.
CROWLEY: So tell me how bad it is? What are you talking about? Are you talking about in terms of the information he may have and how damaging it is to -- for him to give it away to countries like Venezuela and Ecuador and Cuba? Or are you talking about just the whole PR mess that this is?
BAER: It's the PR mess. But more than that, the National Security Agency has the crown jewels. And apparently he got to see them. And we're -- we're talking about getting into Internet. We're talking about, you know, things that are fairly benign. But what sort of codes breaking was he aware of. I simply -- I simply don't know that. But I would imagine it's pretty bad.
CROWLEY: Tom, let me bring you back in. Is there any way that a person wanted in the U.S. in Ecuador, other than convincing Ecuador they ought to send him on back and extradite him, is there really any way for the U.S. to get at him?
FUENTES: Well, in a way, no. But the extradition requirement, whether it was Hong Kong or any other country, even if we have an extradition treaty with that country, the law that's violated has to be similar in both countries. And so the excuse that can be used by the other country is that giving away state secrets of the United States does not violate their personal law.
It's easier to extradite somebody for murder or drug trafficking, something that's universally accepted as a crime. But giving away secrets of the U.S. is not going to be universally accepted even if we have extradition. So that's a problem. And an extradition could take -- it can take 18 to 24 months even on a good day or a good system. So that's problematic. But if he's traveling without a passport, these countries are going to have to let him in knowing he's not legally entering their country. And the procedure then can be they can deport him. And by international practice, they can either deport him to his country of citizenship which is the United States or the last country he came from if that country will accept him.
Now we don't know, you know, that could be Moscow in this case, that could be back to Hong Kong. You know, we're not sure. But you know it would matter what his legal status is as a traveler with a passport.
CROWLEY: Tom Fuentes, Bob Baer, our CNN panel, everybody, stick with me. When we return, the man who might be able to tell us where Edward Snowden is indeed going is next. "Guardian" columnist, Glenn Greenwald.
CROWLEY: Joining me now from Rio de Janeiro "Guardian" reporter Glenn Greenwald.
Glenn, thanks for joining us this morning. When Americans look at Edward Snowden, and what little we know of him and certainly you know him better, this has been a man who a lot of Americans think is a hero because he put all this out in the open.
We know that he has said that he loves democracy and he loves the country, and yet when we look at the possible countries he may go to, Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, they don't seem to be in keeping with his ideals. Can you explain that dichotomy to me?
GLENN GREENWALD, COLUMNIST, "THE GUARDIAN": The problem is, is that the United States has not been keeping with his ideals. I would urge every one of your viewers to go to Google and look at a McClatchy article from this morning about the Obama administration's treatment of whistleblowers and leakers. Because what it describes is that the Obama administration has been more vindictive and more aggressive in punishing people who bring transparency to the U.S. government than any president in all of American history.
And so obviously we should have a country in which American citizens like Mr. Snowden are free to come forward and inform us as his fellow citizens of what our government is doing deceitfully and illegally in the dark and not be put into prison for life. But that isn't the government that we have. And so I think the question is, why do we have a country in which whistleblowers feel compelled to flee and stay out of the clutches of the American government?
CROWLEY: There are lots of people on Capitol Hill, when you listen particularly to the progressives, say, Ron Wyden, Mark Udall, who certainly would, I think, have listened to Mr. Snowden. There were perhaps other ways to do this. If I read you correctly, you think that Cuba, Venezuela and -- now I understand this is a man that's wanted, you know, for trial, and he's been charged, so I can see why he wouldn't want to come to the United States, but you're not suggesting that Cuba and Venezuela and Ecuador has more freedom of the press or is more -- a more open society?
GREENWALD: Well -- I don't think anyone thinks his going Cuba is his ultimate destination. Venezuela and Ecuador both have democratically elected governments so they all kinds of problems in their political system. All sorts of things to criticize them for, but so did the United States. And I think the real issue that we ought to be focusing on is what is it that Mr. Snowden has revealed about the government that makes them want to put him into prison so eagerly.
I mean, you said earlier that there were other ways to do this. Ron Wyden and Mark Udall have been running around the country for three years now saying that the Obama administration is using secret law to engage in domestic spying that, in their words, would stun the American people if they've learned about it, and yet they were prevented. Even members of the Senate Intelligence committee like those two were prevented from telling uses as Americans what it is that they were so alarmed about.
So I'd like anybody who said there are other ways to bring transparency, there were other ways to have exposed this, to tell me or anybody what those other ways are. The problem is that these things were suppressed and then concealed until he stepped forward and exposed it. But that seems to be a much more important question than what country he's choosing to go to.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
CROWLEY: This just in, the official Twitter account of Ecuador's foreign minister Ricardo Patino Aroca has just tweeted in Spanish and English that, quote, "The government of Ecuador has received an asylum request from Edward Snowden."
So let's go -- be back to my panel. I'm not sure who else we have out there. We'll certainly bring them in.
Ecuador seems to be certainly outside the reach of the U.S.
DOUGHERTY: They do. I just checked they do have an extradition treaty from 1941. I don't know. You know, would they extradite to the U.S.? Obviously, as we just reported, the U.S. is asking any country that he goes, give him up, don't let him in. So it would then be a political question --
CROWLEY: Because all we know is that it's been requested, not that they have given it. So there is that.
CROWLEY: John, do you buy the argument that there was no other place for Edward Snowden to go? This infuriates a lot of lawmakers up on Capitol Hill when they hear this, but there is a point that for three years we did hear Ron Wyden and Mark Udall something's bad happening, but we can't tell you, so -- KING: Glenn Greenwald has a very good point. There are progressives who, for years, have said and progressives who know about this and who go to the Senate floor and say, I wish I could tell you, I can't tell you because I'm sworn to secrecy on these programs.
I think that if Mr. Snowden has what he says he has, which is evidence that the United States is -- that what the government is telling even the Intelligence Committees it does is a lie, but it does more than that. That even what it's telling -- if he could prove that to a Ron Wyden or somebody, I do think it could have been worth a try.
What he has done now, and again, you're right, some people think he's a hero, some people think this -- what he has done is a felony. And he violated a contract which he swore to the United States government, are there times at which that is appropriate? Probably above my pay grade. If he could prove the government was lying even to Congress, if he could have gotten that to a Ron Wyden or Mark Udall, I suspect they would have gone to the floor of the United States Senate and said, I have been shown evidence and tried to blow it up, tried to take it in a political direction. But he decided to do what he did.
CROWLEY: Right. Dana?
BASH: I just -- I'm just reading on my BlackBerry now, a press release from WikiLeaks saying that -- we knew some of this, but saying, confirming that Snowden has asked WikiLeaks legal advisers to help and they're apparently -- according to this press release -- he's bound for a democratic nation via a safe route for the purpose of asylum and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisers from WikiLeaks.
CROWLEY: Diplomats. I got to run, but I wanted to -- Dana, Joe, John, Jill, thank you so much.
Glenn Greenwald, thank you for joining us. I'm sure we'll be talking to you if you'll let us throughout the rest of the day.
When we return, the media's role in this story. Howie Kurtz and David Zurawik are up next.
CROWLEY: I'm now joined by CNN's Howie Kurtz and "Baltimore Sun" TV critic David Zurawik.
Thank you for joining us. I am amazed that I just now read a tweet from an Ecuadorian official saying, by the way, Snowden has just applied for asylum here. How much has this story, beginning with the NSA, the original leak, been driven by social media?
DAVID ZURAWIK, TV CRITIC, BALTIMORE SUN: I think social media has played a huge role in this. I mean, even the way the messages have gone out beyond social media on the Internet, the videos with him talking. And -- CROWLEY: Right.
ZURAWIK: You know, this morning I woke up to a tweet from Glenn Greenwald alerting me to a McClatchy story which he just referenced.
Yes. And that -- that framed my -- that was the first thing out of bed this morning.
ZURAWIK: So that's the kind of role it's played. I think the exciting thing that we saw today on "RELIABLE SOURCES" was I think the narrative is shifting on this story from tremendous -- there was a lot of sympathy, a lot of empathy, he was -- you mentioned this, treated as a hero. And now going to Russia and the track that he's taken, it's become more of an entertainment story with this flight. It's almost the spy novel.
But it's also I think a chance, as Howie said this morning, for the administration to really dive in and start winning some public relations points in this battle.
Everybody now has access to the media, 140 characters, press the button.
KURTZ: And Candy Crowley reads it on CNN. But I do think that the debate, as David said, is going to dramatically shift because while some have viewed Snowden as a hero, a 29-year-old guy who risked his life -- not his life, but his career and his freedom really to expose these secrets, now that he has gone to Moscow, now that he may be headed to Ecuador, he looks like just another fugitive on the run, and I think that there was going to be a lot less sympathy even to those who were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
CROWLEY: On the other hand, he was already in China. Right? So -- and then -- and he's sort of safe. But, I mean, I do think one of the things that also happens with social media is it continues to drive the story. Story doesn't die until the social media ends.
I've got to run. Thank you.
Sorry. Our breaking news coverage is going to continue with John King right after this.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.
KING: I'm John King in Washington with breaking news being seen and watched around the world. NSA leaker Edward Snowden's sudden departure out of Hong Kong is our lead this afternoon. He's currently in Moscow and we've now learned he may be hoping to fly to Ecuador. The shadowy group WikiLeaks is apparently helping him.