The Note: Where In The World Is Edward Snowden Going?

credit: Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP Photo

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • FROM RUSSIA WITH LAPTOPS: Edward Snowden, the man who claims to have leaked a trove of classified information about U.S. spy programs, failed to board his early morning flight from Moscow to Cuba today, an apparent hitch in his sudden, complex escape from Hong Kong to South America, ABC's JAMES GORDON MEEK , GLORIA RIVIERA , KIRIT RADIA , BRIAN ROSS and LEE FERRAN report. Snowden, a 30-year-old former contractor for the National Security Agency, twice checked in for a 6:05 a.m. ET flight from Moscow to Havana, but did not board the plane, according to ABC News reporters in Moscow and airport officials. Snowden was last believed to be in the transit zone of the Moscow airport and has no visa to officially enter the country without special permission from the Russian government. Snowden's flight itinerary booked for today - with a stopover in Cuba before reportedly planning to head to either Venezuela or Ecuador - heightened concerns not only about his personal motives but about the ease with which several governments unfriendly to the U.S. could copy the hard drives of his reported four laptops along the route.
  • EXIT STRATEGY: Over the weekend Snowden stunned U.S. officials by fleeing from Hong Kong, where he's been in hiding for weeks, for Moscow, despite the U.S. having filed charges against Snowden including espionage and an extradition request made to Hong Kong. An attorney for Snowden, Albert Ho, told ABC News that Beijing was the real force behind Hong Kong's actions, or lack thereof, over Snowden. The Chief Executive of Hong Kong, which is a semi-autonomous region of China, said Hong Kong was simply upholding their laws by not detaining Snowden, as they were still "processing" the U.S. request. "There was no legal basis to stop Mr. Snowden from leaving Hong Kong," C Y Leung told reporters. "This is a good example to illustrate 'One Country, Two Systems,' 'Hong Kong people ruling Hong Kong' and the high degree of autonomy that we have."
  • NSA CHIEF ON SNOWDEN LEAKS - 'SYSTEM DID NOT WORK': During an exclusive interview with ABC's GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith Alexander said yesterday 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." When asked by Stephanopoulos, "Do you understand why the system did not blink red in a way that could prevent Snowden from leaving Hawaii in the first place with those secrets?" Alexander responded, "No, I don't." "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."


ABC's RICK KLEIN: We're not talking about Jason Bourne here, or even Frank Abagnale Jr. Somehow, a 30-year-old former government contractor has not eluded the entire American justice system, but has taken an uncomfortable domestic situation for the Obama administration and made it literally into an international incident. With a slow-speed (until or unless the confessed leaker takes off, with journalists surely on board) manhunt, US authorities are appearing in the roles of bumbling bureaucrats, armed with little more than indignation that their legal commands aren't being obeyed overseas. It's possible that, by involving China and Russia in his escape plan, Edward Snowden and his friends at Wikileaks read international politics more expertly than the American government.

ABC's MICHAEL FALCONE: For a Senate race without an opposing candidate, there sure are a lot of television ads flying back and forth in Kentucky these days. After two Democratic groups unleashed a volley of TV commercials last week attacking Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who is up for re-election in 2014, the Senate Minority Leader is about to get a little help from his friends. Namely, from an outside group called Kentuckians for Strong Leadership, a pro-McConnell super PAC that is planning to release a flight of ads starting this week to combat the latest Democratic assault. According to a strategist with the group, Kentuckians for Strong Leadership is spending $260,000 on the ads, which will run on broadcast and cable in the state. That's roughly $10,000 more than what two Democratic groups, the Senate Majority PAC and an allied organization, Patriot Majority USA, spent on a new ad, unveiled last Thursday, which asks: "How long is too long in Washington?" A Democratic strategist said news of the effort, "absolutely proves that McConnell knows he's vulnerable." Then again, as my colleague ABC's JEFF ZELENY reports today (, some Democrats think beating McConnell might be nearly impossible.


CHUCK SCHUMER ACCUSES RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN OF 'AIDING AND ABETTING EDWARD SNOWDEN'S ESCAPE'. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., accused Russian President Vladimir Putin Sunday of "aiding and abetting" NSA leaker Edward Snowden's escape from Hong Kong, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ reports. "What's infuriating here is Prime Minister [sic] Putin of Russia aiding and abetting Snowden's escape," Schumer said on CNN's State of the Union Sunday. "The bottom line is very simple: Allies are supposed to treat each other in decent ways, and 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," he said. "I think it'll have serious consequences for the United States-Russia relationship." Schumer also questioned the involvement of Chinese officials in influencing Hong Kong's decision to allow Snowden to leave despite an extradition request from the U.S. "Well, first, very disappointing what Hong Kong has done. It remains to be seen how much influence Beijing had on Hong Kong. As you know, they coordinate their foreign policies. And I have a feeling the hand of Beijing was involved here," Schumer said.

NSA DIRECTOR ON PREVENTING FUTURE SNOWDENS: When asked during an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos if there is anything that could prevent another private contractor from accessing and leaking classified information from the NSA's systems, National Security Agency Director Gen. Keith 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 gonna do the right thing."

BACK IN THE CLIMATE GAME: OBAMA WILL LAY OUT GLOBAL-WARMING PLAN. Since the death of energy reform in Congress, climate change hasn't been a big topic of discussion in Washington. But on Tuesday, President Obama will lay out a plan to reduce carbon emissions and prepare for global warming, ABC's CHRIS GOOD reports. Obama tweeted a video from the White House account over the weekend, including a YouTube video warning about climate change and announcing his speech on Tuesday at Georgetown University. "We'll need all of us, as citizens, to do our part to preserve God's creation for future generations - our forests and waterways, our croplands and snow-capped peaks," Obama says in the video. "There's no single step that can reverse the effects of climate change. But when it comes to the world we leave our children, we owe it to them to do what we can." Obama mentioned climate change in his most recent inaugural address, and he posed his upcoming Georgetown address as a renewed call to action. "This Tuesday, I'll lay out my vision for where I believe we need to go - a national plan to reduce carbon pollution, prepare our country for the impacts of climate change, and lead global efforts to fight it," Obama says in the video.

FORMER MITCH MCCONNELL OPPONENT: 'IT'S GOING TO BE VERY HARD' FOR HIM TO LOSE: One of the biggest goals of the year for Democrats has been trying to find a candidate in Kentucky who is willing to run against Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader. But, ABC's JEFF ZELENY reports that the last man who tried to defeat him has new words of advice for his party: good luck. Bruce Lunsford, a wealthy Louisville businessman who challenged McConnell in 2008, said Democrats face an uphill battle trying to win the seat. He said it would be a high-risk move for anyone with a political future, considering most of the rivals who have tried knocking off McConnell have never run for office again. "There is really no sitting Democrat that I can think of right now that has the firepower, monetarily, or has enough gravitas to take him on significantly," Lunsford told ABC News. "I'd be surprised if anybody can run against him who thinks they have a further career in politics." Democrats are eagerly awaiting an answer from Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Kentucky Secretary of State, who for months has been weighing whether to confront McConnell in the midterm elections next year. Democratic officials believe she is likely to make a decision in the next two weeks. But the warning from Lunsford seems to be aimed directly at Grimes, 34, who he said has "a great future." "I don't think there is any Democratic candidate who would be willing to risk the damage that he could do to them in a negative campaign," Lunsford said in an interview. "It's going to be very hard for Senator McConnell to lose."

OBAMA URGES CONGRESS TO PASS IMMIGRATION REFORM. As the Senate is poised to make a key vote on an immigration compromise today, President Obama pressed Congress over the weekend to pass immigration reform, ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ notes. "The United States Senate is debating a bipartisan, commonsense bill that would be an important step toward fixing our broken immigration system," Obama said in his weekly address Saturday. "The bill isn't perfect. It's a compromise. Nobody is going to get everything they want - not Democrats, not Republicans, not me. But it's consistent with the principles that I and others have laid out for commonsense reform." The president said the bill would lead to "stronger enforcement. A smarter legal immigration system. A pathway to earned citizenship. A more vibrant, growing economy that's fairer on the middle class. And a more stable fiscal future for our kids."

HAPPENING TODAY: This afternoon, President Obama meets with CEOs, business owners and entrepreneurs at the White House to discuss immigration reform. According to the White House: "Eight CEOs and business owners will meet with the President to discuss the importance of fixing our broken immigration system - and making sure that every worker in America is playing by the same set of rules and paying taxes like everyone else. We are pleased with continued bipartisan work in Congress and the President will continue to urge Congressional leaders to take action in order to grow the economy, strengthen the middle class, improve our fiscal outlook and create new opportunity for Americans everywhere."


"REPUBLICANS: BOEHNER'S TO BLAME FOR GOP'S FOOT-IN-MOUTH DISEASE," by the National Journal's Chris Frates. "Fetal masturbation. Rape doesn't usually result in pregnancy. Grade schoolers should be taught traditional gender roles. A handful of House Republican lawmakers seem unable to stop making headlines on abortion and gay marriage. And Republicans on and off the Hill know who's to blame. House Speaker John Boehner. GOP lawmakers, strategists, and insiders say Boehner and House leadership are enabling foot-in-mouth disease by allowing divisive social issues to reemerge at a time when Republicans were finally winning the daily messaging war against a controversy-plagued White House. Republicans say they want leadership to start calling out the fringers, distancing the party from the lawmakers' remarks. And they want leaders to stop bowing to interest-group pressure to put risky social issues on the House floor. "Somebody, somewhere has got to strengthen their spine, and they have to man up and say to the groups, 'These are not the kinds of conversations that are going to win elections and keep us in the majority,'" said Lisa Camooso Miller, a former House GOP leadership aide. … Of course, leaders can't tell members what they can and can't say. But, insiders argue, they can enforce message discipline through public shaming and reduce the opportunities for members to embarrass the party."


TED CRUZ OP-ED IN RED STATE: "LATEST "DEAL" FROM THE SENATE: PASS AMNESTY FIRST, READ THE BILL LATER." Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., writes today on the conservative blog RedState: "On Monday at 5:30pm, the United States Senate will vote on the most sweeping immigration reform proposal it has considered in almost 3 decades - and it will do so having only seen the nearly 1200 pages of text for approximately 72 hours. Americans - including myself, my fellow senators and our staffs - are still trying to figure out exactly what is in the new Schumer-Corker-Hoeven 'deal.' Sound familiar? Pass it to find out what's in it? Reminiscent of Obamacare, the lengthy amendment to replace the Gang of 8's original bill was crafted behind closed doors and introduced late on Friday, after many members had left town. In the 2007 immigration debate, close to 50 amendments were considered. But this year, we have only debated 9 - with some of us being completely shut out. Given only a weekend to review the language, we will now vote on whether to end a debate that never really began."


@DLeonhardt: An annual reminder: the breathless initial descriptions of a Supreme Court ruling may be wrong. …

@BobCusack: 2 Republicans changed their votes from "aye" to "no" on farm bill: Shuster (panel chairman) and Coffman (Dem target in '14).

@politico: Rep. Peter King says it's time for the U.S. to get tough on China after Snowden was allowed to leave Hong Kong:

@PhilipRucker: Good @JillDLawrence piece on Martin O'Malley - what drew him to Baltimore, his record as Gov & 2016 hopes …

@CarrieNBCNews: Great @davidhawkings shoutout to fearless Bad News Babes star @rollcallabby on WAMU this AM #gobabes

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