TODAY   |  June 24, 2013

Edward Snowden a no-show on plane to Cuba

National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden is on the run, having left Hong Kong for Russia, where he had been expected to board a plane to Cuba. He is waiting on a response from the Ecuadorian government regarding a request for asylum. NBC’s Jim Maceda reports and NBC national security analyst Michael Leiter discusses the case.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> we're following the breaking news out of russia . edward snowden 's last known location.

>> he was supposed to get on a plane in moscow this morning headed for havana, cuba. we had a producer on the plane. she said security was open and honest with the passengers on the plane saying that edward snowden was supposed to be on it with one or more people and by the time the door was closed edward snowden was not on it. there were empty seats and we now know the plane has taken off. we don't know where edward snowden snchts it's due to land in cuba in about 12 hours. all of this is happening as international pressure mounts. security of state john kerry this morning saying there will be consequences if russia or china helps snowden flee. jim is in moscow for us. good morning to you.

>> reporter: good morning, savannah. well, as you said, every journalist here, including anna, as you quoted, believes he was going to be on the flight. of course it took off without him. we simply don't know if he is possibly on the flight, whether he is still in the airport or none of the above . he could have been whisked off to a local foreign embassy but this is really just the latest twist in a story of intrigue and espionage. this morning edward snowden , the former intelligence agent that revealed top secret u.s. surveillance programs is on the run. you can the foreign minister says he's on island.

>> u.s. government are upset over them allowing him to escape to russia . on nbc's meet the press, republican congressman mike rogers says no one should be surprised that vladimir putin offered snowden safe transit.

>>> russia wants to get back on the world stage and they don't care if they do it that is in the best way of good citizenship around the world.

>> reporter: the fear now that is snowden out of u.s. government reach will leak more security secrets.

>> i'm very worried about what else he has and what else he may put out there.

>> reporter: the u.s. now scrambling to do damage control with a shrinking number of options. and according to the new york times snowden is carrying four laptops and thumb drives ichlts a trove of unclassified evidence and he seems to be wanting to leak it.

>> thank you. let's turn to michael. good morning to you.

>> good morning savannah.

>> after midnight last night they urged russia to hook at any options to expel snowden from it's boarders noted that the u.s. returned, quote, numerous high level criminals to russia at the request of the russian government . what are the chances russia actually cooperate with the u.s.?

>> this is very much a political question . it's less whether they have the legal authority to do it and whether or not president putin actually wants to use his muscle, which he obviously can do through a variety of names to send him back to the united states . he has been stripped of his u.s. pass port is one option. we can also send a provisional arrest warrant . my guess is the reason he's not on that plane is the russians do want to consider whether this is the right path to let him leave their airport there.

>> meantime, hong kong of course said that the u.s. botched the paperwork that would have lead to the arrest of snowden in hong kong . any doubt in your mind that hong kong or the chinese authorities decided to simply wash their hands of edward snowden .

>> i'm smiling because there's no doubt. this is not about a legal document not having the right ts crossed and is dotted. the hong kong authorities had several tunlts to stop him either through the arrest warrant or stopping him from travel because his u.s. passport was no longer valid. hong kong nor the government in bejing, neither wanted to be a player in this and the easiest way was to let him travel to moscow .

>> he appears to be on a tour of countries that are adverse to the united states . do you think the chinese or russian authorities will get a look at what he is carrying with him as we just reported? laptops, thumb drives ? and do you think ultimately the u.s. can get him back?

>> it's difficult to know if the chinese have already seen some of it? my guess is that the russians and chinese may not want to get that involved. in that sense, they may not have access to that data. it's more likely that they turn him over but regardless of where he ends up, my expectation is that the classified information he has will ultimately be released. this is like the movies, there's some other hard drive out there he has given to other people. i will be surprised that even if we get him back to the united states that information isn't ultimately made public.

>> and finally, michael, other than the diplomatic and political channels we have discussed this morning, are there other unorthodoxed ways to pick up somebody like snowden and do you think the obama administration would use them?

>> savannah the option there would be known as rendition. that would be using an organization like the cia to go in and take him and bring him back to the united states . we have done that in the past, we have fundamentally never done that without some explicit or impolii implicit by the government.