American Edward Snowden, a former contract employee at the US National Security Agency, was revealed by the Guardian as the whistle-blower behind significant revelations about the US government's top secret, extensive domestic surveillance programmes. Snowden flew to Hong Kong from Hawaii in May and supplied confidential US government documents to The Guardian and The Washington Post. SCMP follows the latest developments:
SATURDAY, JUNE 15
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying breaks his silence on the controversy surrounding US whistle-blower Edward Snowden:
Concerning the case of Mr Edward Snowden, the Chief Executive, Mr C Y Leung, issued the following statement today (June 15) :
When the relevant mechanism is activated, the Hong Kong SAR Government will handle the case of Mr Snowden in accordance with the laws and established procedures of Hong Kong. Meanwhile, the Government will follow up on any incidents related to the privacy or other rights of the institutions or people in Hong Kong being violated.
Ends/Saturday, June 15, 2013
Issued at HKT 19:06
Hundreds of marchers joined together to support Edward Snowden. Despite the rain, they made their way to the US consulate and Hong Kong government headquarters where they handed open letters to representatives.
Police estimates put the number of participants at 300, but earlier, organisers said the protest was at 900 people at its peak. Follow the rally from beginning to end, on the Post's live-blog.
Facebook became the first to release aggregate numbers of requests from the US government, saying in a blog post that it received between 9,000 and 10,000 US requests for user data in the second half of last year, covering 18,000 to 19,000 of its users’ accounts. Facebook has more than 1.1 billion users worldwide.
FRIDAY, JUNE 14
Convicted US spy Christopher Boyce: 'Snowden is doomed': In one of only a handful of interviews Boyce has given since his arrest in 1977, he told CNN this week about his own motivations three decades ago and what Snowden is likely to face psychologically now he is pitted against the world's most powerful secret service.
The Guardian issues statement in reply to Rep. Peter King
"We are surprised and disappointed by comments from Rep. Peter King R(NY), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, saying "legal action should be taken" against Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald for his reporting on NSA surveillance.
This is especially troubling in light of comments from Eric Holder, US Attorney General who stated: "As long as I am attorney general, we will not prosecute any reporter for doing his or her job." Holder went on to say he was “troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable."
Beijing will look into the Edward Snowden case to determine whether he is an asset or liability to China's national security, mainland observers say. But it will be handled in a low-profile manner to avoid upsetting the Sino-US relationship and being seen as meddling in Hong Kong affairs, writes the Post's Teddy Ng and Zhang Hong.
If Snowden were to seek legal protection in Hong Kong, he can ask to be considered a refugee or claim he will be tortured if sent back, writes the Post's Patsy Moy, Joyce Ng and Lana Lam. He has told the Post that he strongly supports the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees system.
In a possible extradition case, Snowden has a few options. The Post's Adolfo Arranz takes a look in an infographic.
Classified US government data shown to the Post by Snowden has provided a rare insight into the effectiveness of Washington's top-secret global cyberspying programme, writes Lana Lam. The detailed records - which cannot be independently verified - show specific dates and the IP addresses of computers in Hong Kong and on the mainland hacked by the National Security Agency over a four-year period.
They also include information indicating whether an attack on a computer was ongoing or had been completed, along with an amount of additional operational information.
HK protesters march to US Consulate in support of Snowden (AFP)
THURSDAY, JUNE 13
The FBI said it had launched a criminal investigation and was taking "all necessary steps" to prosecute Snowden for exposing secret US surveillance programmes. FBI Director Robert Mueller told the US House Judiciary Committee: "These disclosures have caused significant harm to our nation and to our safety. We are taking all necessary steps to hold the person responsible for these disclosures," he said.
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying remained tight-lipped as he returned from his New York trip at night. "I am not commenting on individual cases," he said at the airport - the same response he gave seven times in an interview with Bloomberg television in the US.
Video: What does Hong Kong think about Edward Snowden?
Kim Dotcom, founder of Megaupload, writes a commentary about the Prism programme for The Guardian.
— Kim Dotcom (@KimDotcom) June 13, 2013
After a Reuters report that Snowden used an online alias 'TheTrueHooha', a few detective bloggers have combed the internet from about 10 years ago looking for traces of a possible young Snowden.
Are these Edward Snowden’s ARSTechnica posts? A blogger who combed a message board points out that:
- TheTrueHooha mentions he has considered working in Japan, Thailand, Korea, China and Australia. "China is definitely a good option career-wise, and I’ve already got a basic understanding of Mandarin and the culture, but it just doesn’t seem like as much “fun” as some of the other places. Who knows where the “needs of the service” will actually end up placing me, though."
- Others think an 18-year-old Snowden took modelling photos.
The Post's Jeremy Blum has a delves deeper in a blog post: Edward Snowden linked to forum posts on working overseas, wiretapping
US-China relations will be tested after the disclosure of a huge US electronic surveillance programme, state newspaper China Daily said. The programme “is certain to stain Washington’s overseas image and test developing Sino-US ties”, the newspaper cited analysts as saying.
“How the case is handled could pose a challenge to the burgeoning goodwill between Beijing and Washington given that Snowden is in Chinese territory and the Sino-US relationship is constantly soured on cybersecurity.”
An analyst noted the irony that the US’ surveillance programme was exposed just as Washington has intensified its public accusations of Chinese state-backed cyberattacks -- an allegation which Beijing vehemently denies.
“It turns out that the biggest threat to the pursuit of individual freedom and privacy in the US is the unbridled power of the government,” the paper quoted China Foreign Affairs University researcher Li Haidong as saying. (Agence France-Presse)
@SCMP_News the world wide web was invented by the US military as a weapon of war to gather intelligence. nobody should be surprised here
— Charlie Munchford (@CMunchford) June 13, 2013
Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying keeps mum on Snowden during his official visit to New York. The Post's Gary Cheung reports that the visit "has turned out to be an awkward trip to the United States to promote trade relations". Asked about how extraditions to friendly countries were handled, he said: “In general, we follow the laws and our policies.”
Bloomberg TV in New York also failed to get him to comment on the case.
Guardian's Glenn Greenwald blasts Rep. King's accusations in NSA case after the New York Republican called for the columnist to face criminal charges (CNN)
Snowden’s teen years at a Japanese anime start-up Long before he became known worldwide as the NSA contractor who exposed top-secret US government surveillance programs, Edward Snowden worked for a Japanese anime company run by friends and went by the nicknames “The True HOOHA” and “Phish.” (Reuters)
The planned rally in Hong Kong for Saturday gains international attention. Al Jazeera, among others, reports.
— SCMP 南華早報 (@SCMP_News) June 13, 2013
— BigBrotherCanada Eh! (@BigBroCanadaEh) June 13, 2013
— JJRothery (@JJRothery) June 12, 2013
HK ex-Democratic Party leader Albert Ho among confirmed speakers for "Support Edward Snowden" rally in HK this Sat supportsnowden.org
— Kristie Lu Stout CNN (@klustout) June 12, 2013
— Fergus Ryan (@fryan) 2013年6月13日
— Phil Muncaster (@philmuncaster) June 12, 2013
Reactions from Twitter after Snowden's interview with the Post
— aka Cloud Apple (@CrimsonWaxApple) June 13, 2013
@scmp_news Based on what at least one HK official said earlier this week, sounds like gov't would like Snowden to voluntarily leave.
— morettiphd (@morettiphd) 2013年6月13日
Let's hope Hong Kong proves to still be a rule-of-law bastion by handing over Snowden expeditiously.
— andres martinez (@andresDCmtz) June 13, 2013
Note to self: for direct communication link to Fort Meade, turn on CUHK VPN.
— Joshua Rosenzweig (@siweiluozi) June 13, 2013
Do Edward Snowden's statements that NSA hacked Chinese targets undermine claims to whistleblower status? http://t.co/StnnbEFtox
— Andrew Edwards (@AndrewEdwardsCA) June 13, 2013
— HalloweenBlogs (@HalloweenBlogs) June 13, 2013
The "Pardon Edward Snowden" petition on the White House website reaches more than 65,000 signatures.
— Klb (@Kissylovebox) June 13, 2013
One in 3 Americans see NSA leaker Edward Snowden as ‘patriot’ than traitor, according to a poll by Reuters.Some 23 per cent of those surveyed said former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden is a traitor while 31 per cent said he is a patriot. An additional 46 per cent said they did not know.
Edward Snowden talks to the Post's Lana Lam
Stories from the exclusive interview:
“I have had many opportunities to flee HK, 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."
"The US government will do anything to prevent me from getting this into the public eye, which is why they are pushing so hard for extradition.”
“I have not spoken to any of my family,” he said. But, he added: “I am worried about the pressure they are feeling from the FBI.”
Snowden said that according to unverified documents seen by the Post, the NSA had been hacking computers in Hong Kong and on the mainland since 2009.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 12
EXCLUSIVE: Whistleblower Edward Snowden talks to South China Morning Post from a secret location in Hong Kong.
Taiwan entitled to decide whether to admit Snowden, a Ministry of Justice official says. (Channel News Asia)
Former US Republican Congressman Ron Paul told Fox Business News that he feared the US government might send a drone missile to kill Snowden.
"I'm worried about somebody in our government might kill him with a cruise missile or a drone missile," Paul said in the interview, adding "it’s a shame that we are in an age where people who tell the truth about what the government is doing gets into trouble".
According to The Huffington Post, Snowden had donated US$250 to Paul's presidential campaign twice in 2012.
Hong Kong supporters of Snowden are planning a rally on Saturday, to "defend free speech" and "uphold Hong Kong law".
Snowden is seeking legal help in Hong Kong, Bloomberg reports.
Oriental Daily News said Snowden was trying to contact Hong Kong-based human rights organisations and lawyers for help, without citing sources. However Hong Kong Human Rights Monitor has not yet received any message from Snowden, it added.
Hong Kong's immigration department has no record of him leaving the country, Apple Daily has reported.
Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei writes an opinion piece in The Guardian: "The US is behaving like China". "To me, it's abusively using government powers to interfere in individuals' privacy. This is an important moment for international society to reconsider and protect individual right," he writes.
The father of Snowden's girlfriend, Lindsay Mills, is "shocked" by news that the Snowden is the NSA leaker, the AP reports.
Again, a Twitter account purports to be Snowden "now seeking refuge". The account is fake.
One last time: this account is fake: @ejosephsnowden
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) June 12, 2013
New York Republican Peter King tells CNN that the journalists tied to the leaks should be prosecuted. "If they willingly knew that this was classified information, I think actions should be taken, especially on something of this magnitude," said King, who leads the House Homeland Security subcommittee on Counterintelligence and Terrorism.
The NSA surveillance programme is the subject on a new Tumblr meme: Obama is checking your e-mail.
TUESDAY, JUNE 11
Satirical news website The Daily Currant posts a story that US Senator John McCain has called for an invasion of Hong Kong, what he calls "an enemy of the state". "I don't want to hear about extradition or rendition or any of that nonsense. This man is a traitor and if we don't get him within 24 hours I say we need to start bombing the hell out of Hong Kong," the fake news story reads.
The emergencies director of Human Rights Watch, Peter Bouckaert, told The Guardian that Snowden should not be considered safe in Hong Kong. "There's little doubt [reason] to believe that the Hong Kong authorities would not co-operate with the CIA in this case," said Bouckaert, who after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi found faxes in Tripoli indicating that the Hong Kong authorities had co-operated with the CIA in rendering an anti-Gaddafi Islamist to Libya.
Chinese microbloggers wonder if Snowden is in the wrong place, reports the Post's Amy Li. “Isn’t government monitoring a norm? Doesn’t our government do that daily?” one said. Another wrote: “Kid, we have a much more powerful surveillance system in China. Coming here is suicide.”
Sales of George Orwell's 1984 are up 5,000 per cent on Amazon, reports Slate. Orwell's dystopian novel is set in a "big brother" state.
Booz Allen issues a statement that Snowden was an employee for less than three months. He was "terminated" on June 10 "for violations of the firm's code of ethics and firm policy", the statement said. It also confirmed he had a salary of US$120,000 a year, not US$200,00 as Snowden claimed.
Snowden-inspired memes are passed around online.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange calls Snowden a hero. "Edward Snowden is a hero who informed the public about one of the most serious events of the decade which is the creeping formulation of a mass surveillance state that has now corrupted the courts in the United States..." Assange said in an interview with SkyNews.
Reports about Snowden's girlfriend Lindsay Mills surface. "I don't know what will happen from here. I don't know how to feel normal," the self-styled "pole-dancing superhero" wrote on her blog. She was also "adrift in a sea of chaos" after Snowden came forward as the whistle-blower, CNN reported.
Edward Snowden's decision to flee to Hong Kong may be an early test of the burgeoning relationship between Xi and Obama, writes Post correspondent Teddy Ng.
MONDAY, JUNE 10
Fake Snowden Twitter accounts crop up.
Any Twitter or Facebook accounts purporting to be Edward Snowden are fake.
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) June 9, 2013
Iceland cannot grant asylum to Snowden unless he is there, the country's ambassador to China told the Post's Patrick Boehler. "According to Icelandic law, a person can only submit such an applications once he/she is in Iceland," said Kristín Árnadóttir, the Icelandic ambassador in Beijing. Snowden had told The Guardian that he might try to seek asylum in Iceland.
Why The Guardian is the go-to newspaper for whistle-blowers, the Post's Julian Ryall in Tokyo asks. "What the editors in London have been saying over the last few years is that The Guardian has become the world's leading liberal voice," Justin McCurry, the Guardian's Tokyo correspondent said. "So if there are issues like government-level abuses or power, violations of human rights and so on, then this is the place to go to because The Guardian will treat them sensibly and accurately."
A timeline of events that led up to the Snowden affair is created by journalists.
Hong Kong is baffled by Snowden's choice of hideout, reports the Wall Street Journal's China Real Time Report. It quotes politicians who note Hong Kong's "longstanding co-operation with the US on legal and economic matters".
Edward Snowden reveals his identity and that he has been holed up in a Hong Kong hotel, in a video and story in Britain's Guardian newspaper. "I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions," he said, but "I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant."