As Edward Snowden bides his time in a Russian airport while he tries to secure safe asylum for himself, US officials are growing increasingly concerned that China and Russia may have gained access to information in the NSA leaker’s possession.

The Free Beacon reports:

Intelligence agencies in China and Russia gained access to highly classified U.S. intelligence and military information contained on electronic media held by renegade former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, according to U.S. officials.

The exact compromise of the secret data held on Snowden’s laptop computers remains unknown but is the subject of an ongoing damage assessment within NSA and other intelligence agencies, said officials familiar with the case.

One of the biggest fears about the compromise is whether Snowden, an NSA contractor and former CIA technician who hacked into classified intelligence networks, gained access to new U.S. nuclear war plans, the officials said.

The Washington Post on Monday indicated NSA analysts are retracing Snowden’s digital footsteps to determine more specifically what else he may have in his possession.

The NSA has teams of analysts scouring systems that they think Snowden may have accessed, officials said. Analysts are seeking to retrace his steps online and to assemble a catalogue of the material he may have taken.

“They think he copied so much stuff — that almost everything that place does, he has,” said one former government official, referring to the NSA, where Snowden worked as a contractor for Booz Allen Hamilton while in the NSA’s Hawaii facility. “Everyone’s nervous about what the next thing will be, what will be exposed.”

But the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald earlier emphasized that Snowden has been carefully selective about the information that’s been disclosed.

From the Washington Post:

Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian columnist who has published a series of stories based on documents provided by Snowden, said he has exercised discretion in choosing what to disclose. Snowden, too, has said he was selective in choosing what to disclose.

“I know that he has in his possession thousands of documents, which, if published, would impose crippling damage on the United States’ surveillance capabilities and systems around the world,” Greenwald told CNN. “He has never done any of that.”

Still, industry analysts and officials worry that the information may end up in the hands of other governments by methods outside of Edward Snowden’s control.

An earlier article from the New York Times (cited in this prior post) said that intelligence experts who worked for major government spy agencies speculated that sensitive information may have already been extracted by the Chinese government.

Mr. Snowden has denied giving China classified documents and said he had spoken only to journalists. But his public statements, directly and to reporters, have contained intelligence information of great interest to China.

Two Western intelligence experts, who worked for major government spy agencies, said they believed that the Chinese government had managed to drain the contents of the four laptops that Mr. Snowden said he brought to Hong Kong, and that he said were with him during his stay at a Hong Kong hotel.

If that were the case, they said, China would no longer need or want to have Mr. Snowden remain in Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, it appears that the NSA leaker could be spending more time than anticipated at a Russian airport, where he remains in hiding while trying to avoid extradition to the US.  He has requested asylum in Ecuador, but it could take weeks before such a decision is made.

From Reuters:

Ecuador, where Edward Snowden has requested asylum, said a decision could take weeks and asked Washington to argue its case for extradition. Russia said Snowden, whose flight is proving a growing embarrassment for President Barack Obama, was still in the transit area of Sheremetyevo airport.

[…]

“They are not flying today and not over the next three days,” an Aeroflot representative at the transfer desk at Sheremetyevo said when asked whether Snowden and his legal adviser, Sarah Harrison, were due to fly out.

“They are not in the system.”

The logical route for Snowden to take out – and one for which he at one point had a reservation – would be an Aeroflot flight to Havana and a connecting flight to Ecuador.

The US and Ecuador aren’t exactly on the best of terms, and various factors could potentially impact Ecuador’s decision in the matter.

From CNN:

“This request will be reviewed responsibly, as are the many other asylum applications that Ecuador receives each year,” Ambassador Efrain Baus, deputy chief of mission, said in a statement.

“The government of Ecuador has requested that the U.S. submit its position regarding this applicant in writing so that it can be taken into consideration as part of our thorough review process.”

The statement said Ecuador “strongly rejects recent statements made by United States government officials containing detrimental, untrue, and unproductive claims about Ecuador. Ecuador has signed all the human rights instruments of the Hemisphere and is fully committed to the rule of law and the fundamental principles of international law.”

The U.S. State Department recently criticized a new law in Ecuador, saying it could “restrict freedom of the press and limit the ability of independent media to carry out its functions as a critical part of Ecuador’s democracy.”

As I pointed out in a prior post, there is further irony in the situation between the US and Ecuador, because of prior leaks by Wikileaks that also revealed US criticisms of Ecuador’s police force.

Russian president Vladimir Putin confirmed Wednesday that Snowden remains in a transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetevo airport – which we’re expected to believe is not technically within the Russian border – but that Russia had no plans to extradite Snowden.

From ABC News:

US officials are urging Russia to expel Snowden without delay, saying Moscow has a “clear legal basis” for his expulsion.

But Mr Putin dismissed US criticisms as “ravings and rubbish”.

“I myself would prefer not to deal with these issues. It’s like giving a baby pig a haircut – there’s a lot of squealing but there’s little wool,” he said.

[…]

“We can only hand over foreign citizens to countries with which we have an appropriate extradition agreement,” Mr Putin said.

“We don’t have this kind of an agreement with the US. Mr Snowden did not commit any crimes in Russia. Mr Snowden is a free man and the sooner he chooses his destination, the better it will be for us and for himself.”

Mr Putin said the 30-year-old American was in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and, not having gone through passport control, was free to leave.

It’s unknown at this time when Snowden will depart from Russia and where his next destination will be.