Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old former defense contractor who leaked National Security Agency documents and has been labeled an American "traitor" on the lam, apparently hasn't even left the Chinese city from which he shared America's spying secrets, despite vanishing the day after his tell-all interview went public — and despite the reporters and investigators on the tail of a leaker and his lady. In fact, one local Hong Kong paper tracked him down, and there appears to be another tell-all on the way. "I'm neither traitor nor hero," Snowden tells The South China Morning Post in his first interview since The Guardian unmasked him. "I'm an American." The paper hasn't yet published the "more explosive details" it's promised, but seems to suggest Snowden is still "holed up in secret locations in Hong Kong."
Update, 9:50 a.m. Eastern: Here's more of Snowden from the Morning Post interview, apparently conducted today.
“People who think I made a mistake in picking HK as a location misunderstand my intentions. I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality,” said Snowden told the Post earlier today.
He vowed to fight any extradition attempt by the US government, saying: “My intention is to ask the courts and people of Hong Kong to decide my fate. I have been given no reason to doubt your system.’’
Update, 10:50 a.m.: Apparently the interview was actually conducted on Tuesday, and a slightly longer version of the Morning Post interview includes a look ahead:
“As long as I am assured a free and fair trial, and asked to appear, that seems reasonable,” he said.
He says he plans to stay in Hong Kong until he is “asked to leave”
Update, 1:35 p.m.: The Morning Post's site can't seem to handle the load of people reading their Snowden interview, but The Guardian's excellent live blog has the latest. Snowden claims that the U.S. has been hacking Chinese computers for four years, and that he showed documents to the Post revealing as much. Quoth the Post's Lana Lam:
Snowden claimed that overall, he believed there had been more than 61,000 NSA hacking operations globally, with hundreds of targets in Hong Kong and on the mainland.
Update: Could Snowden's re-emergence mean a new round of leaks is on the way? We look ahead.
Earlier: Around lunchtime Monday, it seemed Snowden was about to fly the coop from where he'd been holed up in Hong Kong. He checked out of the $330-a-night Mira Hotel, to which the local press had tracked him based on the background of his video interview, then dropped even further off grid. There was talk of his fleeing to Iceland, and the Russians apparently offered to host him. But CBS News' Bob Orr reports this morning that there's no sign Snowden ever left Hong Hong — and that investigators actually have a pretty good idea where he may be. Local reports from Hong Kong suggest Snowden is still in town — perhaps, as The Guardian reports in a long profile of his going dark, in a safe house, seeking help from lawyers and human right groups. Who could control that safe house remains very much unclear. There are no signs Snowden has received support from Hong Kong's government... yet. But many U.S. officials no doubt want him extradited and thrown in jail.
For Snowden, staying underground and seeking out lawyers is probably his best strategy. He has 90 days to seek asylum or get a visa extension before he will be legally required to leave China. Snowden allegedly landed May 20, so he's still got the majority of his allotted time ahead of him, if he can avoid his many tails.
Meanwhile, back in Hawaii, his dancer girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, is starting to guard her identity a little closer after the world discovered her very revealing blog and Instagram accounts. The Washington Post reports she had no idea her boyfriend — her "man of mystery" — was going to leak top-secret documents from the NSA, at least according to her friends who are now coming out of the woodwork. Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Mills' father said Snowden "always had strong convictions of right and wrong," but added he was still shocked when he heard about the leaks.
Snowden, of course, expected all this. His last words in a week-long series of interviews with The Guardian belonged to Benjamin Franklin: "Those who surrender freedom for security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one."