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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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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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This article is now closed to comments

bluefirestorm
If he had Iceland already in mind, he should have gone there in the first place.
Or he should have just joined Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. It would have been interesting to see how long both will last in the same space!
walfordgroup@gmail.com
Good for him revealing the illegal spying, hopefully the newspapers gave him enough money to disappear in Asia for a while.
jayb
insightful. one more. if he was in US, he may not get the forum he wants. 1. think Pvt. Manning. the govt may muffle him quick. he would just be portrayed as a naive nerd who tricked by china to betray his country. given the current anti china sentiment in US, this works perfect! 2. he would likely be sitting in jail for the rest of his life. sitting out in HKG, he has more option plays. 3. HKG is media center (thus CNN and every major world media has operations). 4. he KNOWS. the guy works ALL HIS LIFE in intelligence. he knows MORE than most of us.
blue
"(extradition may take weeks or months)"

It actually takes years. I agree that this young man is very brave.
goncalo
The USA is a rogue state and can never be trusted.
jayb
you are "forgiven" -:) but seriously, please refer to the Constitution. the constitution has established this system such that "the People" (meaning Congress as we are a Republican form of governance) has oversight on this. you and i may not feel comfortable with these lame/hapless politicians but that's the system.....
impala
I don't think that the constitution mentions the NSA, nor does it speak about snooping on e-mail and so on. True, insofar that it establishes civilian control over the military, of which the NSA is a branch, Congressional oversight in these matters is implied.

But more importantly, the whole Constitution is aimed to define, balance and limit the power of government over citizens. And of particular relevance to this story is the 4th amendment. If this Snowden case leads to a Supreme Court review on how precisely the NSA and other agencies may and may not use powers of electronic 'search and seizure,' that would be in the best interest of all.

I am sure that, as a former constitutional law professor, Obama is aware of this.
torture4
@dmcalpin87 I agree, I think his choice was a little naive. HK does have a relatively vocal populace and a "relatively" free press and internet (though reading the SCMP, I have to sometimes seriously doubt that!). But the government here is nothing if not indecisive, subservient, thin-skinned, and eager to protect their own ****. They'll do what Beijing tells them, and if Beijing says 'hand this guy over', then that's what will happen.
stoatmonster
This guy is a traitor and if the US authorities were to apply for his extradition, he should be so extradited to face justice.
I eat slipper rice
I still don't understand why Snowden chose Hong Kong. HK has an extradition treaty with the US and any 'plush' hotel can't be more than a few km way from the US consulate. Also, whose paying for that plush hotel? Low level security contractors aren't known to be racking in vast amounts of cash, with out supplementary income that is.

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