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  • Jul 10, 2014
  • Updated: 10:00am
Edward Snowden
NewsHong Kong

Surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden hiding in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 June, 2013, 8:59am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 June, 2013, 2:32pm
 

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10 Jun 2013
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One of America's most consequential whistleblowers, Edward Snowden, came out of hiding in Hong Kong on Monday.

The 29-year-old employee of defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton and former CIA technical assistant revealed his identity and location to The Guardian in a series of interviews published today.

"I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong," he told the British daily after he exposed secret surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency. He showed documents to The Guardian which included details of: 

  • how the NSA collects and stores the phone records of hundreds of millions of Americans
  • exploits data from the world's largest Internet companies with their apparent co-operation

Snowden is said to have arrived in Hong Kong on May 20 from his home in Hawaii. He has been staying at an unnamed "plush hotel" ever since, running up high bills and leaving the room "maybe a total of three times".

He chose the city, he said, because Hong Kong had "a spirit commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent."

"I think it is really tragic that an American has to move to a place that has a reputation for less freedom," he said. "Still, Hong Kong has a reputation for freedom in spite of the People's Republic of China."

Hong Kong could refuse to extradite Snowden if Beijng wanted to keep him, according to a treaty signed between the United States and Hong Kong almost two decades ago.

Video: The Post talks to Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian reporter who broke the NSA surveillance story

Snowden feared that he would be taken away by the Chinese government for questioning over his extensive expertise in US intelligence gathering technology or "rendered" to the CIA or third-party partners.

US government sources told Reuters news agency last week that they are likely to initiate a criminal investigation into the leak. 

To prevent being spied on, Snowden reportedly stuffs pillows against the doors and “puts a large red hood over his head and laptop when entering his passwords."

Information leaked by Snowden was reported by the Guardian and the Washington Post last week. He singlehandedly exposed a massive US intelligence programme called Prism, under which the US government secretly collected information online from private user accounts operated by Facebook, Google, Apple and other companies.

Internet service providers insisted on Monday that they had not given direct access to customer data.

"Press reports that suggest that Google is providing open-ended access to  our users’ data are false, period,” Google’s CEO Larry Page and chief legal  officer David Drummond said in a message on their official company blog.

"We provide user data to governments only in accordance with the law,” they  said.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg described the press reports as  ”outrageous,” insisting that his firm only provided user information to the  authorities when compelled to by law. Yahoo! issued a similar denial.

Snowden said he hoped the Hong Kong government would not deport him. "My predisposition is to seek asylum in a country with shared values. The nation that most encompasses this is Iceland. They stood up for people over internet freedom. I have no idea what my future is going to be," he told the Guardian.

In a statement, Booz Allen Hamilton confirmed Snowden had been an employee  for “less than three months” and promised to help US authorities investigate  the “shocking” claim that he had leaked classified information.

The office of the Director of National Intelligence said the matter had now been ”referred to the Department of Justice.”

“The intelligence community is currently reviewing the damage that has been done by these recent disclosures,” it said.

“Any person who has a security clearance knows that he or she has an obligation to protect classified information and abide by the law.”

 

 

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20

This article is now closed to comments

fearonjones

Snowden should be unreservedly supported and the illegality of the NSA's actions fully investigated. If they are acting outside the scope of their powers appropriate actions should be taken to ensure that in future they comply with the law. If people see the organisation they work for operating illegally they have a duty to report it. If it a government agency that is acting illegally, then those who the government serves, i.e. the public, should be informed. We seem to be forgetting who should be master and who should be servant.
John Adams
it is now common knowledge that the USA's causus belli against Iraq over WMD was an overt lie.
It is also now common knowledge that the USA is blatantly hypocritical when it comes to things like export control to drug-producing-countries and countries aspiring to produce nuclear weapons.
(There is documentary proof that that the USA turned a blind eye to USA companies exporting critical equipment to Iran to produce nuclear centrifuges - in fact the evidence is openly published on google images and youtube ! )
It makes me shudder to think what other abuses the USA commits and it makes a mockery of the USA as the 'champion of democracy and free speech'
My namesake of the 19th Century would be shuddering in his grave if only he knew how low the USA has stooped
Full marks to Mr Snowden for blowing the whistle !
ejmciii
Strictly speaking, it appears that what the NSA and CIA did was not illegal as there were laws that were adopted to allow them to do so. The laws seem to violate the 4th Amendment but even that is unclear as there has not been a clear explanation of how the process works. The oddity is that an unconstitutional law stays in force and on the books until the Courts set it aside and otherwise the remedy for information unconstitutionally taken is that the government cannot rely on that information in a prosecution of the person in question, but how does that ever resolve the issue? The real question is what will the electorate demand to know and how will they punish/reward their representatives in the House and the Senate in 2014.
jayb
to be fair to Obama. although most americans do not know about this massive spying on our own citizens, this spying is not illegal. the program was established after 9/11 and Obama just intensified it. Congress actually has oversight on this with regular hearing and reporting. so far, we don't want to know and don't complain because this has kept the country safe. one should not go into the kitchen if you insist on restaurant food.
impala
Forgive me, but I find scant comfort in the fact that the oversight of this lies with Congress.
impala
I don't think he minds to be extradited per se. He made a very conscious and brave choice to speak out, knowing that he is all-but-sure to be prosecuted for it. I don't think his intention is to hide and run forever. He is not concealing his identity, he not hiding in a cave. He is open about who and where he is, and he knows they will get him, sooner or later.

I think he went to Hong Kong because he 1) didn't want to be bothered by the US media (or worse) swarming around his house and life, and 2) wants to have time (extradition may take weeks or months) to tell his side of the story in public. Had he stayed in the US, he might have been arrested within days or even hours, and then kept isolated from the press for weeks while the administrations spins the story and goes into damage control.

I also note he wasn't a low level security contractor. He was a highly paid (around USD 200k area per year) senior consultant, hired by the NSA as a systems administrator. Sure, hardly a big shot, but not just some random temp behind a keyboard either.
HK-Explorer
In this case I think Snowden was in the right. This is big brother looking over you and checking everything you do. I also think they will use this information in improper ways.
I am all but certain they follow people's wearabouts through their smart phones, Facebook and email information. They can use this for tax evasion. Someone unemployed and they see them going to an office or construction site. Someone on disability and they see them going to a beach or biking.
Creating statistics on cheaters based on emails, phone calls and text messages.
Computers are far more powerful than people think. They can easily dig into a persons life and know allot about them. They can build webs of association. Your life increasingly becomes an open book.
Russia, China and North Korwa don't know as much about there people as US does. This really is scary. They can target people who think differently and work at infiltration and neutralise the group.
This is how powerful people retain power and pass it on to their kids. Political dinosties don't occur randomly. There is allot of work put into maintaining power. Us is now the land of the monitored,
KwunTongBypass
Well, what do we have here! United States Democracy "with Chinese Characteristics"
jayb
mega ditto. NSA/CIA are doing the LEGAL thing here except this is like Obamacare, most americans have no clue what is in the law as both the President and the legislators, for good reasons, do not want this to go public. having said that, the law has a lot of flaws, a big one is, who is monitoring the monitor? a 29 y.o. guy, got paid $200K and got all the power. how many americans, without a college degree got paid $200K a year? this is a MESS!!!
jayb
i stand "self" corrected. Snowden in the interview with Guardian stated that he is a "system administrator", "senior consultant" and "system engineer" to NSA on infrastructure issues based out of HI. while he does not have a college degree, he certainly has the experience, technical skill, analytic acumen to handle he work with success.

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