Picture of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden
Picture of NSA whistleblower Edward SnowdenReuters

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who exposed secrets about the federal government’s surveillance programs, has reportedly left Hong Kong for a "third country."

The South China Morning Post reported Sunday that Snowden was on a plane for Moscow, but that Russia was not his final destination. Snowden has talked of seeking asylum in Iceland.

Hong Kong said in a statement that it allowed Snowden to leave despite an extradition request from the U.S. because documents provided by the U.S. government did not "fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law."

It said there was no legal basis to stop Snowden from leaving the country.

Snowden was charged with three criminal charges in a court in Virginia on Friday.

The complaint, filed under the Espionage Act, charges Snowden with the theft and communication of classified intelligence, then giving the information to an unauthorized person.

Snowden provided The Guardian and The Washington Post with classified information regarding the federal government’s far-reaching efforts to gather data on phone calls, emails and other electronic communications to thwart terrorism, evoking heated national debate.

Snowden told the South China Morning Post in an interview published Saturday on its website that he hoped to stay in the autonomous region of China because he has faith in "the courts and people of Hong Kong to decide my fate."

Russia said earlier this month that it would consider sheltering the former CIA employee and intelligence contractor.

Speaking to the Russian newspaper Kommersant, Dmitry Peskov, Vladimir Putin's spokesman, said, "If such an appeal is given, it will be considered. We'll act according to facts." The New York Times reported.

Hong Kong also said that it had sent a letter to the US to "formally" explain allegations by Snowden that the US had hacked into several computer systems in the territory.