Hong Kong authorities made a "deliberate choice" to release fugitive NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and have damaged U.S.-Chinese relations as a result, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said today.
We are just not buying that this was a technical decision by a Hong Kong immigration official," Carney told reporters at the daily briefing. "This was a deliberate choice by the government to release a fugitive despite a valid arrest warrant, and that decision unquestionably has a negative impact on the U.S.-China relationship."
Carney would not, however, speculate about the repercussions for U.S.-China relations.
"The Chinese have emphasized the importance of building mutual trust … and we think that they have dealt that effort a serious setback," Carney said. "If we cannot count on them to honor their legal extradition obligations, then there is a problem. And that is a point we are making to them very directly."
Snowden traveled from Hong Kong to Moscow Sunday, but did not board a flight to Havana, as expected.
"It is our assumption that he is in Russia," Carney said.
The White House is in communication with Russian authorities.
"We are expecting the Russians to examine the options available to them to expel Mr. Snowden for his return to the United States," Carney said.
Carney was adamant that Hong Kong authorities knew that Snowden's passport had been revoked and "were advised of the status of his travel documents in plenty of time to have prohibited travel as appropriate."
Hong Kong authorities acknowledged receipt on June 17 of the U.S. request for the Chinese to cooperate with Snowden's arrest.
"Despite repeated inquiries, Hong Kong authorities did not respond with any request for additional documents or information, stating only that the matter was under review and refusing to elaborate," Carney said.
On June 21, Hong Kong authorities requested additional information concerning the U.S. charges and evidence.
"The U.S. had been in communication with Hong Kong about these inquiries and we were in the process of responding to the request when we learned that Hong Kong authorities had allowed the fugitive to leave Hong Kong," Carney said.