Edward Snowden's bespectacled and goateed face was almost unavoidable in Hong Kong last week. It stared out from newsstands, banners and giant TV screens on shopping malls and office buildings after it became known that the admitted leaker of U.S. secrets was in town and in hiding.
Still, when the U.S. asked the semiautonomous Chinese city for Snowden's provisional arrest, its response was essentially this: Who exactly do you mean?
Justice Secretary Rimsky Yuen said Hong Kong officials weren't sure who to look for because the U.S. government got Snowden's middle name wrong in documents filed to back its arrest request.
He said Hong Kong immigration records listed Snowden's middle name as Joseph, but the U.S. government used the name James in some documents and referred to him only as Edward J. Snowden in others.
"These three names are not exactly the same. Therefore, we believed that there was a need to clarify," Yuen said Tuesday.
Yuen said U.S. authorities also failed to provide Snowden's passport number. He said officials received the arrest request on June 15 and sent a request June 21 for clarification. Two days later, Snowden flew to Moscow.