In a statement Sunday, Justice Department spokeswoman Nanda Chitre said Hong Kong authorities had informed U.S. officials of Snowden's departure.
"We will continue to discuss this matter with Hong Kong and pursue relevant law enforcement cooperation with other countries where Mr. Snowden may be attempting to travel," she said.
Hong Kong said the American request for a provisional arrest warrant "did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law" so it asked for additional information. Because Hong Kong didn't have enough information, "there is no legal basis to restrict Mr. Snowden from leaving Hong Kong," the government said.
But a Justice Department official said Sunday that the United States had met requirements and disputed the assertion from Hong Kong's government.
"They came back to us with a few questions late Friday and we were in the process of answering those questions," the official said. "We believe we were meeting those requirements. As far as the relationship with Hong Kong goes, this raises questions and we will continue to discuss with authorities there."
Hong Kong's lack of intervention came after Snowden told the South China Morning Post that U.S. intelligence agents have been hacking computer networks in Hong Kong and mainland China for years. The territory's government said it has requested "clarification" about that in order "to protect the legal rights of the people of Hong Kong."
Snowden 'told the truth in the name of privacy,' Paul says
President Barack Obama, top legislators and national security officials defend the surveillance programs Snowden detailed as necessary to combat terrorism and argue that some privacy must be sacrificed in a balanced approach. In a chat session moderated by the Guardian last week, Snowden said he went ahead with the leak because Obama worsened "abusive" practices instead of curtailing them as he promised as a candidate.
Obama has been receiving updates on the Snowden case from national security aides, a senior administration official told CNN.
But Snowden's revelations also sparked criticism from U.S. spy chief James Clapper, who told the Senate Intelligence Committee in March that the NSA didn't "wittingly" collect data on millions of Americans. After Snowden's revelations, Clapper told NBC that he answered "in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful manner" to the question from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon.
Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky told CNN's State of the Union that both Clapper and Snowden will be judged by history.
"Mr. Clapper lied in Congress, in defiance of the law, in the name of security. Mr. Snowden told the truth in the name of privacy," said Paul, the son of former Libertarian-turned-Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul.
Paul said that unlike civil rights protesters who broke the law and submitted to the courts to make a statement, Snowden faces a "disproportionate" penalty. But he added that Snowden's actions may be judged more harshly if he "cozies up" to an oppressive government overseas.
"If he goes to an independent third country like Iceland and if he refuses to talk to any sort of formal government about this, I think there's a chance that he'll be seen as an advocate of privacy," Paul said. "If he cozies up to either the Russian government, the Chinese government, or any of these governments that are perceived still as enemies of ours, I think that that will be a real problem for him in history."