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Snowden seeks asylum in Ecuador

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Edward Snowden took a flight from Hong Kong to Moscow Sunday. (Source: CNN) Edward Snowden took a flight from Hong Kong to Moscow Sunday. (Source: CNN)
Wikileaks took credit for Snowden's escape. (Source: Twitter screengrab) Wikileaks took credit for Snowden's escape. (Source: Twitter screengrab)

(RNN) - Where in the world is Edward Snowden? And where in the world is he going?

According to the Associated Press, Minister Ricardo Patino - Ecuador's foreign minister - tweeted that the government of Ecuador received a request for asylum on the part of Snowden.

But before leaving Hong Kong for Russia, U.S. officials say Snowden's passport was annulled.

Snowden, a former contractor who leaked information earlier this month about a classified electronic surveillance program conducted by the National Security Agency, is wanted by the U.S. government on espionage charges.

Wikileaks indicated early Sunday via Twitter that it aided Snowden in his escape from Hong Kong and possible extradition by the U.S.

Wikileaks stated, "WikiLeaks has assisted Mr. Snowden's political asylum in a democratic country, travel papers ans (sic) safe exit from Hong Kong. More soon."

The hacking organization, which has a reputation for publishing classified information damaging to the U.S., claimed via Twitter that Snowden was over Russian airspace early Sunday morning and "is accompanied by Wikileaks legal advisors."

The former contractor for Booz Allen Hamilton had been staying in Hong Kong for weeks, granting media interviews in which he detailed U.S. government spying and hacking programs.

The Associated Press reported Hong Kong officials allowed Snowden to leave aboard a plane to Moscow despite a U.S. extradition request. The officials claimed the U.S. request did not fulfill all legal requirements, and therefore, the Hong Kong government had no legal reason to detain him.

In a statement, the Hong Kong government also said it wanted more information about Snowden's allegations of computer hacking by U.S. government agencies in Hong Kong.

The South China Morning Post said Snowden boarded Aeroflot Flight SU213, which is due in Moscow at 5:15 p.m. Moscow time.

The U.S. Justice Department unsealed a complaint Friday against Snowden, charging him with espionage and theft of government property.

Snowden's revelations about the NSA phone and internet surveillance programs has created controversy in the U.S. and abroad. Some viewed Snowden as a hero for speaking out against governmental surveillance overreach, while others condemned him as a traitor who has jeopardized U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

The programs in question collect domestic phone records, as well as internet data from foreign residents. President Barack Obama and some top officials, both Democrats and Republicans, defended the sacrifice of privacy as necessary for safeguard the nation's safety.

Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, testified to Congress Wednesday that the massive phone data and internet information grabs have helped stop dozens of potential terrorist events.

Still, internet companies such as Google pushed back against the NSA thanks to Snowden's revelations, asking its users to speak out against the spying programs.

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