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NSA leaker hunkers down in Hong Kong -- for now

Courtesy of the Guardian file

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, an analyst with a U.S. defence contractor, is seen in this still image taken from video during an interview by The Guardian in his hotel room in Hong Kong June 6, 2013.

Self-identified NSA leaker Edward Snowden broke the low profile he has kept since passing details of two classified American government surveillance programs to reporters, saying he is “neither traitor nor hero” in an interview with the South China Morning Post.

“People who think I made a mistake in picking [Hong Kong] as a location misunderstood my intentions,” Snowden told the paper. “I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality.”

“I have had many opportunities to flee [Hong Kong], but I would rather stay and fight the United States government in the courts, because I have faith in Hong Kong’s rule of law,” Snowden said.

The 29-year-old former government consultant’s whereabouts have been a mystery since he checked out of the Hong Kong hotel where he was last interviewed.

The paper reported that Snowden has hid out in "secret locations in Hong Kong" since the publication of the classified documents he claims to have leaked to reporters at The Washington Post and British newspaper The Guardian.

The self-proclaimed “spy” spoke of the south China city as a refuge in earlier interviews.

“It is really tragic that an American has to move to a place that has a reputation for less freedom,” Snowden told The Guardian in an interview published June 9. “Still, Hong Kong has a reputation for freedom in spite of the People’s Republic of China.”

Snowden has not been charged with a crime, and he said in his interview with the South China Morning Post that he will rely on the government in Hong Kong to defend him if the U.S. should request his extradition.

“My intention is to ask the court and people of Hong Kong to decide my fate. I have been given no reason to doubt your system,” Snowden said in the interview.

Whether the city will keep him is another matter. Hong Kong has a rendition treaty with the U.S. government, but its decisions are subject to approval in Beijing. Mainland China does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S. That does not necessarily mean officials might be less likely to hand Snowden over.

“As a U.S. citizen, I think it is very hard to avoid getting sent back to the U.S," New York attorney Robert Anello, who has handled extradition cases, told NBC News. "There are certain countries that might grant him asylum, but that very much depends on whether the country is willing to go to battle with the U.S. over this issue."

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