Where In The World Is Edward Snowden?


Technically, he may not be anywhere:

Russia says it has had no involvement in the travel plans of fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.

The exact whereabouts of Mr Snowden, who flew to Moscow from Hong Kong on Sunday, are unclear.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov insisted he had not crossed the Russian border.

He criticised what he termed US attempts to blame Russia for his disappearance, saying they were “groundless and unacceptable”.

Correspondents say Mr Lavrov’s comments suggest that Mr Snowden remained air-side after landing at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, and so has technically never entered Russian territory.

“We are in no way involved with either Mr Snowden, his relations with US justice, nor to his movements around the world,” Mr Lavrov said.

“He chose his itinerary on his own. We learnt about it… from the media. He has not crossed the Russian border.

The Guardian is reporting the same thing:

Russia’s foreign minister has said the surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden never crossed the border into Russia, deepening the mystery over his suspected flight from Hong Kong.

“I would like to say right away that we have no relation to either Mr Snowden or to his relationship with American justice or to his movements around the world,” Sergei Lavrov said.

“He chose his route on his own, and we found out about it, as most here did, from mass media,” he said during a joint press conference with Algeria’s foreign minister. “He did not cross the Russian border.”

According to WikiLeaks, which said it facilitated his travel, Snowden fled Hong Kong on Sunday morning to transit via Moscow to an undisclosed third country. He has applied to be granted political asylum by Ecuador, whose London embassy is currently sheltering the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Russian news agencies, citing anonymous sources, reported that Snowden had arrived in Moscow on Sunday evening and met Ecuadorean diplomats at Sheremetyevo airport while awaiting a Monday afternoon flight to Havana, from where he would travel to Venezuela. Snowden did not show up for the flight.

Passengers arriving on the Hong Kong to Moscow flight that was suspected to be carrying Snowden said they saw police activity and at least one black car drive up to the plane before they were allowed to disembark.

That fuelled speculation that Snowden may have been whisked from the plane before going through passport control. Olafur Vignir Sigurvinsson, an Icelandic businessman with links to WikiLeaks, told Reuters last week that he had readied a private jet to aid Snowden’s flight from Hong Kong should the Icelandic government grant him asylum.

Some reports have stated that Snowden stayed overnight Sunday at a hotel at the Moscow airport that is part of the “in transit” area, thus meaning that he technically hadn’t crossed the border into Russia and that the Foreign Minister’s statement was, in some legal sense, correct. At the same time, though, I can’t believe that Russian intelligence isn’t very interested in talking to Snowden or finding out what information might be on those laptops he’s carrying with him. Why he apparently wasn’t on the planned flight to Havana is your guess as good as mine. Overnight, there were reports that the U.S. was putting pressure on the Russians to turn Snowden over, but new reports this morning indicate that the Russians have rebuffed those requests:

Russia’s foreign minister said Tuesday that American demands for the extradition of NSA leaker Edward Snowden were “ungrounded and unacceptable.”

Sergey Lavrov also said that the Russian government had played no role in Snowden’s effort to evade prosecution in the United States, and added that Snowden had not crossed into Russian territory.

So, where it goes from here is anyone’s guess. Personally, I’m thinking that Snowden may be headed to Ecuador by other means.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Ben Wolf says:

    I find it hard to believe anyone actually thought his original flight plan was credible. Like he’d announce his itinerary in advance when he’s bring hunted.. The whole point was to throw U.S. intelligence off his trail and it seems to have worked.

  2. Ben Wolf says:

    *being hunted

  3. John Burgess says:

    He’s boffing Carmen San Diego while wearing his Waldo toque. Where’d you think he was?

  4. Jenos Idanian says:

    @John Burgess: Good line, but Instapundit highlighted this Tweet:

    I saw Snowden drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic’s. His hair was perfect.

    Game over, everyone else is fighting for Second Place.

  5. murray says:

    As John Oliver put it last night, we could stop guessing until he is reliably located.

    The fact the US government claims it lost his trace is either an admission of utter incompetence or a very shrewd PR strategy. I.e. who would give credit to the all knowing Big Brother theory if a simple citizen can vanish while under close surveillance.

  6. Neil Hudelson says:

    Really hoping he makes it to Iceland. I have a a series of “snowed-in” puns just waiting to be used.

  7. Bob @ Youngstown says:

    Do we realy believe Wikileaks, China and Glenn Greewald that Snowden actually left Hong Kong? Any credible witnesses that saw him on that plane?

    I’ve never been in the Moscow airport, but I’ll trust that there is an “in-transit” hotel that is beyond the reach of the Russian law enforcement. Wait a minute, does that make any sense? If a crime is committed in this “not Russian soil”, who would investigate, arrest, prosecute a perpertrator?

    I am reasonably certain of one thing….. someone on Snowden’s “tranparency team” is a liar.

  8. Andre Kenji says:

    @Bob @ Youngstown:

    I am reasonably certain of one thing….. someone on Snowden’s “tranparency team” is a liar.

    As the Watchmen comic book pointed out, telling out your plans in advance is something that only comic book villains do.

  9. I think if there were a direct flight from Russia to Ecuador, Snowden would have taken it already. There isn’t, and Snowden takes the chance of being seized by U.S. agents at any stopover.

  10. stonetools says:

    My guess is that when he pops up again, federal agents will be there to greet him.

  11. @stonetools:

    I disagree. I think he’s either staying in the Moscow transit area until Ecuador or some other country approves his application for asylum, and he can get to that country by a safe route, or he is already on his way there by a route no one in the U.S. government knows or has thought of.

  12. Mikey says:

    He’s not leaving Russia until the FSB has everything it wants.

  13. @Mikey:

    That is absurd. If Snowden wanted to do that, he could have done it in the first place, w/o going through all this. And you guys said exactly the same thing about China — China wasn’t letting Snowden leave Hong Kong until they got everything they wanted from him. It was crap then, and it’s crap now.

  14. al-Ameda says:

    He’s probably at a café in San Francisco’s Mission District, trying really hard to be ironic, and at the same time humble.

  15. al-Ameda says:

    @kathy kattenburg:

    or he is already on his way there by a route no one in the U.S. government knows or has thought of.

    Why not tie him to the roof of Mitt Romney’s Range Rover and drive him to Canada?

  16. @al-Ameda:

    Why not do that to James Clapper? He’s the one who lied to Congress under oath.

  17. Mikey says:

    @kathy kattenburg: I never said he wanted to turn over a damn thing.

  18. @Mikey:

    So what are you saying? That the Russians are torturing Snowdon right now?

  19. al-Ameda says:

    @kathy kattenburg:

    Why not do that to James Clapper? He’s the one who lied to Congress under oath.

    Is James Clapper fleeing the country?

  20. rudderpedals says:

    @kathy kattenburg: Is Putin more trustworthy than Clapper? IMO Russia is engaged in a splendid maskirovka.

  21. @al-Ameda:

    What a strange question. Why on earth would James Clapper flee the country? Does a man generally want to flee the country when he has the country’s ruling class falling at his feet and calling him noble, heroic, a true patriot for lying to them under oath?

  22. Mikey says:

    @kathy kattenburg: Where do you infer this nonsense from? Torturing?

    Have you ever crossed an international border while carrying a laptop? They don’t torture you if they want to look at it, they just have a couple big guys with guns come over and gently relieve you of it.

  23. @Mikey:

    I inferred it from you suggesting that Snowdon would be compelled to give the Russians the information he has. Taking his laptops from him at gunpoint is even more laughable than the torture idea. Well, maybe not more. Just as.

  24. Andy says:

    @kathy kattenburg:

    What’s laughable is for anyone to seriously believe that Chinese and Russian intelligence would not make a go at getting Snowden’s information which, by his own admission, is “thousands” of documents – not simply the programs with civil liberty implications for US persons. That he keeps it in electronic format only makes it easier – Snowden may not even know they took his info. Wittingly or not, it’s quite likely the Russians and Chinese have whatever it is he stole. It was reported today that Snowden spent his last days in Hong Kong in a “safe house” provided by the government security services. How convenient! I’m sure they had his best interests in mind…

  25. Mikey says:

    @kathy kattenburg: It’s not laughable at all, Kathy. I know how it goes because it has happened to me. Entering Canada, actually, which was a big shock.

    They don’t point the guns at you, they just have them, which I assure you is enough.

  26. @Mikey:

    And because the Canadians took your laptop means the Russians are going to take Snowden’s laptop? I don’t know what your situation was and I don’t want to know, but I’m assuming the political circumstances, if there were any in your case, were somewhat different. There’s a difference between seizing the laptop of some random person and the Russians seizing Snowden’s laptop or pressuring him to give up information when this is a huge international story and the Russians at this point have the public relations advantage. Why would they want to become the villains by seizing all of Snowden’s classified documents when they are having so much fun poking the U.S. in the eye for its double standard about press freedom and human rights?

  27. Andy says:

    @Kathy Kattenburg:

    They don’t need to “seize” it. They just need to “inspect” it for 10 minutes. That is the simplest way, though it would be pretty obvious what they were doing. And “inspection” isn’t the only option for getting the info – naturally the Chinese and Russians would prefer to get the info without letting Snowden know.

  28. Mikey says:

    @Kathy Kattenburg: They have a mother lode of stuff they’d normally have to work very hard over a period of months or years to get–assuming they could get it at all–sitting in the airport in Moscow. How they get it is up to them, but I think it would be rather naive to assume anything about Snowden’s notoriety would discourage them. And being Russia, they would have no issues with both acquiring his info and poking us in the eye.

    On the other hand, they may have approached him and he told them to get lost. At that point, they might not exert any more pressure, but at the same time are probably not going to do anything to help speed his passage.

  29. al-Ameda says:

    @kathy kattenburg:

    What a strange question. Why on earth would James Clapper flee the country? Does a man generally want to flee the country when he has the country’s ruling class falling at his feet and calling him noble, heroic, a true patriot for lying to them under oath?

    Well, I do not recall that Mr. Clapper was lionized or canonized.

    What amazes me is that these NSA data mining activities were reported publicly in 2006, even in USA Today (for god’s sake). Essentially Snowden is hailed as a hero by some for reminding us that we forgot to be shocked at these disclosures 7 years ago.

  30. JG says:

    Perhaps the black car that met the Hong Kong flight air side was a diplomatic car from the Ecuadorian embassy and they spirited Snowden away to their Moscow embassy. Snowden would not have officially crossed the Russian border (as far as the Russian authorities are concerned) and the Ecuadorians can quietly put Snowden on some other flight, using the same method. Note that Putin said Snowden was a transit passenger – he did not say that Snowden was in Sherementevo Airport.

    What are the odds that the FSB have looked at the four notebooks that Snowden brought with him from Hong Kong and copied their entire contents.

  31. MarkedMan says:

    Wait a minute, are we having a serious discussion about whether the Russians or the Chinese or anyone else would take Snowden’s laptop? People, get real. This happens a lot, and in the US and Canada too. When you cross a border the Customs service can search your possessions including your laptop. They don’t need your permission or a warrant or anything else, just as they don’t need your permission to search your suitcase. And this is not an exceptional case. As I said, it happens all the time.

    And as for whether they would, well, as an American living in China with my family I am thankful every da*n day that the Chinese government knows my government has my back and so would think twice about f*king with me. (Never even came close to needing it and the Chinese people have been wonderful to us, but I still rest easier knowing it is there.) Snowden has put himself far outside of anyone having his back and then immediately put himself at the mercy of a country that has no actual rule of law (China, not Hong Kong). Then Russia, Cuba and Ecuador? Is Snowden even acting on his own anymore? Or are they passing him around like sloppy seconds?

    As readers of this blog’s comments section may know, I am far, far from a wing-nut, but we have to be realistic here. I am happy that this has come out but Snowden has is an idiot for putting himself at the mercy of any of these four countries. He seems to believe that “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” but should remember that expression comes from a region that has crippled itself with such thinking for several centuries now.