NSA Leaker Edward Snowden Seeks Asylum in Ecuador


Earlier today, WikiLeaks had issued a statement that Snowden left Hong Kong and was "bound for a democratic nation via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisors from WikiLeaks."

"The WikiLeaks legal team and I are interested in preserving Mr Snowden's rights and protecting him as a person. What is being done to Mr Snowden and to Mr Julian Assange -- for making or facilitating disclosures in the public interest -- is an assault against the people," former Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon, legal director of Wikileaks and Assange's lawyer said in a statement.

U.S. Dept. of Justice officials said the U.S had contacted authorities in Hong Kong to seek Snowden's extradition, based on the criminal complaint.

"We have been informed by the Hong Kong authorities Mr. Snowden has departed Hong Kong for a third country. We will continue to discuss this matter with Hong Kong and pursue relevant law enforcement cooperation with other countries where Mr. Snowden may be attempting to travel," Department of Justice spokeswoman Nanda Chitre said in a statement.

During an exclusive interview with ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander said this morning on "This Week" that Snowden has caused "irreversible and significant damage" to the U.S. with his actions.

But Alexander could not say why the NSA's systems were not able to prevent Snowden from stealing and leaking highly classified documents, saying "the system did not work as it should have."

He said he did not know why there was no system in place that could have prevented Snowden from leaving Hawaii in the first place with the document he eventually leaked.

"It's clearly an individual who has betrayed the trust and confidence we had in him," Alexander said of Snowden. "This is an individual who is not acting, in my opinion, with noble intent."

Read Our Exclusive: NSA Chief Keith Alexander: 'System Did Not Work As It Should Have' to Prevent Snowden Document Leaks

"What Snowden has revealed has caused irreversible and significant damage to our country and to our allies," Alexander said.

When asked whether there is anything that could prevent another private contractor from accessing and leaking classified information from the NSA's systems, Alexander said, "This is a key issue we've got to work our way through. Clearly, the system did not work as it should have."

"[Snowden] betrayed the trust and confidence we had in him. This was an individual with top secret clearance whose duty it was to administer these networks. He betrayed that confidence and stole some of our secrets," Alexander added. "We are now putting in place actions that would give us the ability to track our system administrators, what they are doing, what they're taking, a two-man rule. We've changed the passwords. But at the end of the day, we have to trust that our people are going to do the right thing."

Read More: US to Charge NSA Leaker Edward Snowden With Espionage

Charges Against Snowden

A one-page criminal complaint filed on June 14 outlined the charges against Snowden. The document was unsealed Friday night.

Snowden has been charged with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willfully communicating classified intelligence. A government affidavit supporting the charges remained sealed.

As a result of the charges, authorities were seeking to extradite Snowden, who was hiding in Hong Kong since fleeing overseas with a cache of sensitive U.S. documents he obtained while working with the NSA in Hawaii.

NSA Leaker Edward Snowden says that he is not a Chinese spy. Read more here.

Snowden's disclosures to The Washington Post and The Guardian in London confirmed massive government surveillance of telephone and online activity inside the United States.

U.S. officials insist the move has gravely harmed national security, while others have hailed Snowden as a hero shedding light on government overreach.

ABC News' Mike Levine, Imtiyaz Delawala and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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