Criminal Justice

Surveillance leaker checks out of Hong Kong hotel as US readies charges

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Where is Edward Snowden?

The man who disclosed the wide sweep of the United States surveillance program has checked out of his Hong Kong hotel as the U.S. Justice Department readies charges against him.

Snowden’s location is unknown, report the New York Times and the Associated Press. The Justice Department began the process to charge Snowden on Monday, a move that paves the way for an extradition effort, the Times says. Two unnamed U.S. officials are its source for the information.

Snowden could be traveling to a nearby country without a U.S. extradition treaty, such as China or Taiwan, AP says. Those countries could still opt to hand Snowden over to the United States, however.

If Snowden is found in Hong Kong, extradition could take up to a year, according to Hong Kong lawyer Michael Blanchflower. He told AP that after the extradition process is complete, Hong Kong’s leader has the final say on whether to hand Snowden over to U.S. authorities. If he decides the U.S. prosecution of Snowden is political, he would have justification to block extradition under treaty provisions.

Regina Ip, a former secretary of security and a lawmaker in Hong Kong, told the Times that the territory would likely send Snowden back to the United States. “He won’t find Hong Kong a safe harbor,” she said.

Prior coverage: “In ‘high-stakes gamble’ against extradition, surveillance whistleblower is in Hong Kong”

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