Snowden Case Highlights Extradition Treaties Are Not Air Tight


Edward Snowden may never return to the United States to face charges that he leaked highly classified government documents. While the United States has extradition treaties with more than 100 countries, they do not guarantee a country will return a suspected criminal to stand trial.

Hong Kong is a classic example. After Snowden fled there, the United States sent an extradition request and publicly pressured officials to prevent Snowden from fleeing to country. Even though the United States suspended his passport, Snowden boarded a flight to Russian and remains a free man somewhere in Moscow. Since the United States and Russia have no extradition treaty, U.S. officials have applied diplomatic and political pressure.

There are conditions under which countries bound by treaty may deny extradition requests. For instance, Hong Kong maintains that the U.S. extradition request failed to provide the evidence of his cybercrimes needed to secure a provisional arrest warrant. After the United States accused Hong Kong officials of dragging their feet, Hong Kong's Justice Secretary publicly stated that the U.S. failed to clarify the charges of unauthorized disclosure of national defense information and unauthorized disclosure of intelligence.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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