WASHINGTON - National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden's flight from extradition is raising new concerns about possible assistance from foreign governments.
As Snowden hopscotched from Hong Kong to Moscow Sunday, apparently en route to Cuba and then Ecuador, U.S. officials pointed angry fingers at China and Russia.
The finger-pointing followed news that Snowden, 30, the man who leaked information earlier this month about NSA telephone and Internet surveillance programs, had left Hong Kong before U.S. officials could have him extradited on espionage charges.
Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said China "clearly had a role in this." Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., accused Russia's Vladimir Putin of "aiding and abetting Snowden's escape."
And Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said Cuban President Raul Castro or Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro could use Snowden "as a bargaining chip to get more concessions from the Obama administration."
"It is pretty clear that someone has helped him engineer his escape from Hong Kong," said Bruce Riedel of the Brookings Institution, a former CIA, Pentagon and National Security Council official. "The Snowden affair has gone from a question of being a leaker to a question of high politics among the world's major powers."
Snowden arrived in Moscow on Sunday, accompanied by an employee of WikiLeaks, which specializes in releasing classified government documents. At first, he was reportedly headed for Havana, then Caracas, Venezuela.
But the Ecuador Foreign Ministry and WikiLeaks said he will try to get to Ecuador instead. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been holed up at Ecuador's embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden on rape charges.
"This kid is a pawn in a global power play," said former congresswoman Jane Harman, head of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. "He's being used to embarrass us and to send messages to us."
Snowden spent more than a month in Hong Kong before escaping, just hours after U.S. officials said they filed a formal petition with Chinese authorities seeking his arrest and return.
The Hong Kong government said he was allowed to fly out "on his own accord" because the extradition request did not fully comply with Hong Kong law.
"It certainly shows that the failure to move with alacrity was costly," Riedel said. "There certainly will be many who say this hasn't been handled all that well."
Snowden was expected to leave Moscow on Monday after arriving on a government Aeroflot flight without a visa. But his first two stops left U.S. experts worried that China and Russia now have the data Snowden stole from the National Security Agency.
Anthony Cordesman, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said returning Snowden to the U.S. may be difficult, and that it is already too late to prevent the spread of his information.
"You've raised the political profile and the whole debate in the media to the point where this becomes a civil liberties, freedom of speech and human rights issue," Cordesman said. "It will not be seen any more as a crime."