Washington: Whistleblower Edward Snowden "betrayed" America by leaking information about its secret surveillance programmes, US National Security Agency said on Sunday, as authorities sought cooperation from other countries where the former CIA operative attempts to seek refuge.
"He betrayed the trust and confidence we had in him," General Keith Alexander, the Commander of US Cyber Command and Director of National Security Agency (NSA), told the ABC news in an interview.
"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," the intelligence official said.
Alexander`s remarks came as the 30-year-old former CIA operative fled from Hong Kong for a third country, as per a statement by the Hong Kong government, which noted that the US request for extradition failed to meet the legal requirements.
Hong Kong authorities said they had notified the US that Snowden had departed the city on a flight to Moscow, possibly en route to a third country.
"We will continue to discuss this matter with Hong Kong and pursue relevant law enforcement cooperation with other countries where Snowden may be attempting to travel," Justice Department spokesperson Nanda Chitre said.
In his interview to the ABC news, Alexander said the US is now putting in place actions that would give it the ability to track the system administrators, what they`re 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. This is an extremely important mission, defending our country.
"When they betray that trust, well, then we have to push it over to the Department of Justice and others for the appropriate action," he said.
"It`s clearly an individual who`s betrayed the trust and confidence we had in him. This is an individual who`s not acting, in my opinion, with noble intent.
"And when you think about what our mission is, I want to jump into that, because I think it reflects on the question you`re asking," he said in response to a question.
"My first responsibility to the American people is to defend this nation. And when you think about it, defending the nation, let`s look back at 9/11 and what happened.
"The intel community failed to connect the dots on 9/11," Alexander said. Senator Charles Schumer, who is the third-ranking Senate Democratic leader, warned Russia of "serious consequences" if it gives shelter to Snowden.
"What`s infuriating here is Prime Minister (Vladimir) Putin of Russia abetting Snowden`s escape," Schumer told the CNN in an interview.
"I think it will have serious consequences for the United States-Russia relationship," he said.
In a statement, WikiLeaks said it is providing legal help to Snowden to get him asylum in a third country.
"He is 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 statement said.
"Mr Snowden requested that WikiLeaks use its legal expertise and experience to secure his safety.
"Once Mr Snowden arrives at his final destination his request will be formally processed," WikiLeaks said.