Zee Media Bureau
Washington: The US spy who spilled the beans on NSA’s secret surveillance programmes, went missing from his hotel in Hong Kong, where he was ensconced since May 20, reports said Tuesday.
The NSA leaker, Edward Snowden, left his Hong Kong hotel on Monday and his whereabouts are unknown since then, reported the BBC.
Snowden had mostly stayed in Hong Kong hotel room since boarding a flight from the US on May 20, stepping outside for only about three times during his entire stay, the Guardian had reported.
Snowden, who is also an ex-CIA worker preferred to disclose his identity after revealing the sensational information about the US surveillance programs that intercept phone and Internet messages around the world in the hope of thwarting terrorist threats.
The two National Security Agency programs that target suspicious foreign messages — potentially including phone numbers, email, images, video and other online communications transmitted through US providers, were revealed last week by The Guardian and The Washington Post newspapers.
Snowden said he took the step to "protect basic liberties for people around the world".
"I felt like I had an obligation as a human being to help free people from oppression," he said.
One of the NSA programs gathers hundreds of millions of U.S. phone records to search for possible links to known terrorist targets abroad. The other allows the government to tap into nine U.S. Internet companies and gather all communications to detect suspicious behavior that begins overseas.
Snowden is a former CIA employee who later worked as a contractor for the NSA on behalf of Booz Allen, where he gained access to the surveillance. Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said it was "absolutely shocking" that a 29-year-old with limited experience would have access to this material.
The first explosive document he revealed was a top secret court order issued by the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that granted a three-month renewal for a massive collection of American phone records. That order was signed April 25. The Guardian`s first story on the court order was published on June 5.
He also gave the Post and the Guardian a PowerPoint presentation on another secret program that collects online usage by the nine Internet providers. The U.S. government says it uses that information only to track foreigners` use overseas.
Snowden fled last month to Hong Kong, a Chinese territory that enjoys relative autonomy from Beijing. His exact whereabouts were unknown Monday.
Snowden also told The Guardian that he may seek asylum in Iceland, which has strong free-speech protections and a tradition of providing a haven for the outspoken and the outcast.
With Agency Inputs