US got Snowden's name wrong: Hong Kong

2013-06-27 10:02
Edward Snowden (File, AFP)

Edward Snowden (File, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Hong Kong — Hong Kong officials say the US government got National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden's middle name wrong in documents it submitted to back a request for his arrest.

Snowden hid in Hong Kong for several weeks after revealing secret US surveillance programmes. Hong Kong allowed him to fly to Moscow on Sunday, saying a US request for his arrest did not fully comply with its requirements.

Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen said that discrepancies in the paperwork filed by US authorities were to blame, although the US Justice Department denied that on Wednesday.

Yuen said Hong Kong immigration records listed Snowden's middle name as Joseph, but the US government used the name James in some documents and referred to him only as Edward J Snowden in others.

"These three names are not exactly the same, therefore we believed that there was a need to clarify," he said on Tuesday.

Yuen said US authorities also did not provide Snowden's passport number.

Rule of law

The decision to let Snowden leave Hong Kong irked the White House, which said it damaged US-Chinese relations. US officials implied that Beijing had a hand in letting Snowden leave Hong Kong, a former British colony that is now a semiautonomous region with its own legal system.

Hong Kong officials have pushed back, stressing that they followed the city's rule of law in processing the US request.

The US Justice Department rejected the notion Hong Kong had required clarification about Snowden's middle name — or that it needed his passport number, saying the US had provided to Hong Kong all that was required under the terms of their extradition treaty.

"The fugitive's photos and videos were widely reported through multiple news outlets. That Hong Kong would ask for more information about his identity demonstrates that it was simply trying to create a pretext for not acting on the provisional arrest request," a spokesperson said on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the department.

Yuen said the confusion over Snowden's identification and his passport were among factors that delayed an arrest. He said the government requested clarification from its counterparts in the US on Friday afternoon.

"Up until the moment of Snowden's departure, the very minute, the US Department of Justice did not reply to our request for further information. Therefore, in our legal system, there is no legal basis for the requested provisional arrest warrant," Yuen said. In the absence of such a warrant, the "Hong Kong government has no legal basis for restricting or prohibiting Snowden leaving Hong Kong."

No shortcuts

Snowden flew from Hong Kong to Moscow and was expected to seek asylum in Ecuador.

Simon Young, a Hong Kong University professor specialising in criminal law, said that because of the "political sensitivities" involved in the case, authorities had not rushed the case and were taking extra care.

"I think that the Hong Kong government was insisting on a fairly high standard of completeness, and that, I assume, is their practice. They know that our courts will look at these things very closely and they don't take shortcuts," he said.

But he and other legal experts said Hong Kong authorities are typically able to exercise their discretion and use other methods, such as a photo or physical description, to identify fugitives, who often use aliases.

"It's not like he's some mystery figure. He revealed himself on TV," Young said. "The whole world knows what he looks like. So again I didn't see this presenting problems of identification."

Read more on:    edward snowden  |  hong kong  |  us  |  russia  |  china  |  ecuador  |  privacy

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.