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U.S. lawmakers condemn China, Russia after Snowden flees Hong Kong

June 23, 2013|By David G. Savage

WASHINGTON – Lawmakers sharply criticized China and Russia on Sunday for their apparent roles in Edward Snowden’s flight from Hong Kong to Moscow.

The United States had asked Hong Kong authorities to extradite Snowden so he could face criminal charges for his leaking of details of secret U.S. surveillance programs. But lawmakers on TV news programs on Sunday said China and Russia conspired to help Snowden flee.

“What’s infuriating here is Prime Minister Putin of Russia aiding and abetting Snowden’s escape,” Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”  “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. … I think it will have serious consequences for the United States-Russia relationship.”

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China’s role was less clear because Hong Kong has its own government, Schumer said, but Beijing still exerts its influence. “I have a feeling that the hand of Beijing was involved here,” he said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, also pointed to Beijing.  “I think it’s a very big surprise,” she said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”  “I had actually thought that China would see this as an opportunity to improve relations and extradite him to the United States. China clearly had a role in this, in my view.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said the reports suggested Snowden would head from Moscow to Cuba or Venezuela. “Every one of those nations is hostile to the United States,” Rogers said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Appearing on the same program, Glenn Greenwald, the writer who helped Snowden reveal the extent of surveillance by the National Security Agency, depicted him as a whistle-blower who is being unjustly prosecuted by the Obama administration.

“He apparently is headed to a democratic country that will grant him asylum from this persecution,” Greenwald told NBC’s David Gregory.

Lawmakers objected to calling Snowden a whistle-blower.

“I don’t think this man is a whistle-blower,” Feinstein said. He took an oath to keep secret the classified information he saw as part of his job, and he broke it, she said. “I want him caught.”

Rogers said the administration “should use every legal avenue we have to bring him back to the United States.”

david.savage@latimes.com

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