A former Central Intelligence Agency employee who leaked highly sensitive US surveillance programs has reportedly disappeared from his hotel in Hong Kong.
The whereabouts of Edward Snowden, who sought refuge in Hong Kong in May, were not immediately known Tuesday, although he was believed to be still in the city.
Snowden is the self-confessed source of leaks about US surveillance programs that allow the National Security Agency to track phone records and internet data of millions of US citizens.
No charges have been brought and no warrant has been issued for the arrest of Snowden, reports The Associated Press. But his plight to Hong Kong – a Chinese territory – could pose a challenge to renewed pledges of cooperation between the US and China, particularly in the cyber security front.
The leaks about Washington’s own domestic surveillance program could hurt US efforts to pressure China on cyber security and could prompt Beijing to block Snowden’s extradition from Hong Kong in the grounds of political persecution that could further drag relations, AP reports.
However, some analysts claim that Beijing is unlikely to want to jeopardize its relationship with Washington over someone it would consider of little political interest.
US President Barack Obama has defended the surveillance programs and assured Americans that their calls were not listened to.