NSA whistleblower threatens more surveillance leaks on America's alleged hacking of Chinese computer networks
By Stephen Rex Brown / NEW YORK DAILY NEWSWednesday, June 12, 2013, 11:53 AM
Glenn Greenwald/Laura Poitras/EPA
Former CIA employee Edward Snowden revealed himself as the source of documents outing a massive effort by the U.S. National Security Agency to track cellphone calls and monitor the email and internet traffic of virtually all Americans.
But Snowden, 29, says he has a card up his sleeve that will complicate any extradition request: Information regarding the National Security Agency’s surveillance of people in Hong Kong.
“I heard today from a reliable source that the United States government is trying to bully the Hong Kong government into extraditing me before the local government can learn of this,” Snowden told the South China Morning Post, referring to the NSA’s monitoring of people in Hong Kong.
“The U.S. government will do anything to prevent me from getting this into the public eye, which is why they are pushing so hard for extradition.”
Snowden showed the newspaper the documents, which it couldn’t verify, that indicated the NSA had hacked computers in Hong Kong and mainland China since 2009. Among the targets was the Chinese University of Hong Kong and “public officials, businesses and students in the city,” according to the paper.
The accusation, if true, undermines the White House’s criticism of China’s ongoing hacking of both government and corporate computers in the U.S.
The documents show “the hypocrisy of the U.S. government when it claims that it does not target civilian infrastructure, unlike its adversaries,” Snowden said.
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A picture of Edward Snowden is seen Wednesday on the front page of a newspaper in Hong Kong. The whereabouts of Snowden remained unknown Wednesday, two days after he checked out of a Hong Kong hotel.
The cunning move — if it works — could serve as a rebuttal to Snowden’s critics who said he was a fool for taking refuge in the semiautonomous city.
“People who think I made a mistake in picking (Hong Kong) as a location misunderstand my intentions. I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality,” Snowden told the newspaper.
“I have had many opportunities to flee (Hong Kong), but I would rather stay and fight the United States government in the courts, because I have faith in Hong Kong’s rule of law,” he added.
It seemed he was prepared for a protracted legal battle against an extradition request.
“My intention is to ask the courts and people of Hong Kong to decide my fate. I have been given no reason to doubt your system,” Snowden told the South China Morning Post.
Since he revealed himself Sunday, Snowden said he had not spoken to any of his family or his girlfriend.
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Snowden is technically free to leave the China-ruled city at any time, local lawyers said Wednesday.
Snowden’s mother in Ellicot City, Md., has yet to speak to reporters. His father, Lonnie Snowden, 52, told ABC News he was still “digesting and processing” the shocking news on Sunday.
His bombshell girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, 28, wrote on her blog that she is “lost and adrift” after Snowden abruptly left their home in Hawaii, giving only a vague reason for his departure.
The high school dropout’s series of leaks published in The Guardian last week have spurred calls for greater transparency regarding U.S. surveillance of its citizens.
The head of the NSA, Gen. Keith Alexander, will give the agency’s first public testimony since the revelations before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.
Snowden’s first leak showed that Verizon hands over data on phone calls made on its networks. Follow-up reports revealed the practice applied to other phone carriers as well. A subsequent leak reported that the government has direct access to the servers of nine major Internet companies, giving the feds access to virtually all manner of online communications.
Some politicians have called him a traitor who should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Russia, on the other hand, has said it would consider a request for asylum.
He wouldn’t say whether the country had contacted him with an offer, however.
“My only comment is that I am glad there are governments that refuse to be intimidated by great power,” he said.