By Carol Cratty, CNN Senior Producer
Hong Kong authorities contacted the U.S. government late last week asking for clarification of the name on the paperwork requesting a provisional arrest warrant for Edward Snowden.
Hong Kong's Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen told reporters Tuesday night that Hong Kong's Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen said some documents referred to an Edward James Snowden, but Hong Kong immigration records said Joseph was the middle name listed in Snowden's passport. Other documents only referred to Edward J. Snowden. Yuen said that confusion plus the fact the documents didn't list a passport number for Snowden slowed down the process of considering whether to grant an arrest warrant.
Justice Department statement acknowledged Hong Kong asked for clarification regarding the name but called it an excuse.
"The true motive of the letter from Hong Kong authorities is revealed by its request for the supposed 'clarification' of Mr. Snowden's identity with regard to his middle name," said the statement, which also noted photos and videos of Snowden were widely carried by media outlets. "That Hong Kong would ask for more information about his identity demonstrates that it was simply trying to create a pretext for not acting on the provisional arrest request.”
The Justice Department statement also said explanations that Hong Kong officials needed Snowden's passport number or more evidence were inaccurate and that the U.S. had met all legal requirements in its paperwork.
Snowden, the former National Security Agency computer contractor who spilled details of U.S. surveillance programs to reporters, flew to Moscow from Hong Kong after American authorities sought his extradition on espionage charges.
The United States has called on any country where Snowden may travel to turn him away. He spent a fourth day Wednesday in Moscow’s airport with no decision on this request for asylum in Ecuador.
On Sunday the Justice Department supplied a timeline saying the United States sent Hong Kong a request to arrest Snowden on June 15 and that Hong Kong acknowledged it on June 17 and asked for no additional information at that time.
A law enforcement official on Wednesday said officials in Hong Kong had the request from the United States for days but waited until the night of June 21 - a Friday - to raise concern about Snowden's name. The official said if Hong Kong officials really wanted clarification they would have brought it up during the normal U.S. work week.