The Arizona Republican called Putin ‘‘an old KGB colonel apparatchik’’ who disdains democracy and said that Putin ‘‘continues to stick his thumb in our eye.’’
‘‘When you show the world you’re leading from behind, these are the consequences,’’ McCain said.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton echoed the White House’s frustration with China. ‘‘That kind of action is not only detrimental to the U.S.-China relationship but it sets a bad precedent that could unravel the intricate international agreements about how countries respect the laws — and particularly the extradition treaties,’’ the possible 2016 presidential contender told an audience in Los Angeles.
Snowden fled to Hong Kong after seizing highly classified documents disclosing U.S. surveillance programs that collect vast amounts of U.S. phone and Internet records. He shared the information with The Guardian and Washington Post newspapers. He also told the South China Morning Post that ‘‘the NSA does all kinds of things like hack Chinese cellphone companies to steal all of your SMS data.’’ SMS, or short messaging service, generally means text messaging.
Snowden still has perhaps more than 200 sensitive documents, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said over the weekend.
Hong Kong, a former British colony with a degree of autonomy from mainland China, has an extradition treaty with the U.S. Officials in Hong Kong said a formal U.S. extradition request did not fully comply with its laws, a claim the Justice Department disputes.
The White House made clear it believes the final decision to let Snowden leave for Russia was made by Chinese officials in Beijing.
Russia’s ultimate response to U.S. pressure remains unclear. Putin could still agree to return Snowden to the U.S. But he may also let him stay in Russia or head elsewhere, perhaps to Ecuador or Venezuela — both options certain to earn the ire of the White House.
Fiona Hill, a Russia expert at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, said she expected Putin to take advantage of a ‘‘golden opportunity’’ to publicly defy the White House.
‘‘This is one of those opportunities to score points against the United States that I would be surprised if Russia passed up,’’ Hill said.
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