The United States accused Hong Kong of having feigned confusion over Edward Snowden’s middle name so as not to detain the former US intelligence contractor before he fled to Russia.
Hong Kong responded to the US demand for Snowden’s arrest on espionage charges by asking for a clarification of Snowden’s middle name, a US Justice Department spokeswoman said on Wednesday.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, the spokeswoman said that because Snowden’s image was widely available through news outlets, Hong Kong’s request for information was not genuine.
“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,” the spokeswoman said.
She did not confirm an earlier report from the Associated Press that the US government got Snowden’s middle name wrong in documents it submitted to Hong Kong.
Hong Kong immigration records listed Snowden’s middle name as Joseph, while the US government used the name James in some documents, the US news agency said.
Snowden, a former contract employee for the National Security Agency in Hawaii, left Hong Kong on Sunday and is now in the transit area of a Moscow airport.
Snowden is facing espionage and theft charges in the United States after leaking details about secret US surveillance programmes to the news media.
Ecuador said on Wednesday in a statement from its embassy in Washington that it was reviewing an asylum request from Snowden and that the United States must submit any objections to the request in writing.
The US documents sent to Hong Kong also were deficient in not including Snowden’s passport number, the Associated Press reported. The Justice Department spokeswoman said the US extradition treaty with Hong Kong did not require a passport number for a provisional arrest.