The head of the US National Security Agency said on Sunday that he did not know why his agency failed to prevent former NSA contractor Edward Snowden from leaving Hawaii for Hong Kong with a trove of secrets about US surveillance programmes.
“It’s clearly an individual who’s betrayed the trust and confidence we had in him. This is an individual who is not acting, in my opinion, with noble intent,” General Keith Alexander told the ABC News This Week programme.
Snowden had been working as a contractor for the NSA in Hawaii when he fled to Hong Kong and he flew to Moscow on Sunday.
“The chase is on,” California Senator Dianne Feinstein said as the Snowden affair grew vastly more complicated for US President Barack Obama, potentially testing US relations with Russia and other nations.
“And we’ll have to see what happens,” she said.
Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said she has learned Snowden may have more material to leak – “over 200 separate items” – but how much is not certain.
“I think we need to know exactly what he has. He could have a lot, lot more. It may really put people in jeopardy. I don’t know,” she told CBS.
New York Senator Chuck Schumer expressed disappointment on Sunday with Hong Kong for allowing Snowden to leave and with Russia for letting him go there.
Schumer said it was “very disappointing what Hong Kong has done” and it “remains to be seen how much influence Beijing had on Hong Kong.
“I have a feeling the hand of Beijing was involved here,” he told CNN.
“What’s infuriating here is Prime Minister [Vladimir] Putin of Russia aiding and abetting Snowden’s escape,” Schumer added. “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.
“That’s now how allies should treat one another, and I think it’ll have serious consequences for the United States-Russia relationship,” he said.
Schumer said he expected the US authorities would ask Russia to hold Snowden. “Whether Russia does that or not, I don’t know,” he said.