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  • Jul 14, 2014
  • Updated: 3:37am
Edward Snowden
NewsHong Kong

Edward Snowden: US government has been hacking Hong Kong and China for years

Former CIA operative makes more explosive claims and says Washington is ‘bullying’ Hong Kong to extradite him

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 June, 2013, 12:50am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 June, 2013, 4:05am

US whistle-blower Edward Snowden yesterday emerged from hiding in Hong Kong and revealed to the South China Morning Post that he will stay in the city to fight likely attempts by his government to have him extradited for leaking state secrets.

In an exclusive interview carried out from a secret location in the city, the former Central Intelligence Agency analyst also made explosive claims that the US government had been hacking into computers in Hong Kong and on the mainland for years.

At Snowden’s request we cannot divulge details about how the interview was conducted.

A week since revelations that the US has been secretly collecting phone and online data of its citizens, he said he will stay in the city “until I am asked to leave”, adding: “I have had many opportunities to flee HK, but I would rather stay and fight the US government in the courts, because I have faith in HK’s rule of law.”

In a frank hour-long interview, the 29-year-old, who US authorities have confirmed is now the subject of a criminal case, said he was neither a hero nor a traitor and that:

  • US National Security Agency’s controversial Prism programme extends to people and institutions in Hong Kong and mainland China;
  • The US is exerting “bullying’’ diplomatic pressure on Hong Kong to extradite him;
  • Hong Kong’s rule of law will protect him from the US;
  • He is in constant fear for his own safety and that of his family.

Snowden has been in Hong Kong since May 20 when he fled his home in Hawaii to take refuge here, a move which has been questioned by many who believe the city cannot protect him.

“People who think I made a mistake in picking HK as a location misunderstand my intentions. I am not here to hide from justice, I am here to reveal criminality,” he said.

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. None of the documents revealed any information about Chinese military systems, he said.

I’m neither traitor nor hero. I’m an American

One of the targets in the SAR, according to Snowden, was Chinese University and public officials, businesses and students in the city. The documents also point to hacking activity by the NSA against mainland targets.

Snowden believed there had been more than 61,000 NSA hacking operations globally, with hundreds of targets in Hong Kong and on the mainland.

“We hack network backbones – like huge internet routers, basically – that give us access to the communications of hundreds of thousands of computers without having to hack every single one,” he said.

“Last week the American government happily operated in the shadows with no respect for the consent of the governed, but no longer. Every level of society is demanding accountability and oversight.”

Snowden said he was releasing the information to demonstrate “the hypocrisy of the US government when it claims that it does not target civilian infrastructure, unlike its adversaries”.

“Not only does it do so, but it is so afraid of this being known that it is willing to use any means, such as diplomatic intimidation, to prevent this information from becoming public.”

Since the shocking revelations a week ago, Snowden has been vilified as a defector but also hailed by supporters such as WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange.

“I’m neither traitor nor hero. I’m an American,” he said, adding that he was proud to be an American. “I believe in freedom of expression. I acted in good faith but it is only right that the public form its own opinion.”

Snowden said he had not contacted his family and feared for their safety as well as his own.

“I will never feel safe.

“Things are very difficult for me in all terms, but speaking truth to power is never without risk,” he said. “It has been difficult, but I have been glad to see the global public speak out against these sorts of systemic violations of privacy.

“All I can do is rely on my training and hope that world governments will refuse to be bullied by the United States into persecuting people seeking political refuge.”

Asked if he had been offered asylum by the Russian government, he said: “My only comment is that I am glad there are governments that refuse to be intimidated by great power”.

The interview comes on the same day NSA chief General Keith Alexander appeared before Congress to defend his agency over the leaks. It was his first appearance since the explosive revelations were made last week. Alexander’s prepared remarks did not specifically address revelations about the Prism program.

Snowden's revelations threaten to test new attempts to build US-Sino bridges after a weekend summit in California between the nations' presidents, Barack Obama and Xi Jinping.

If true, Snowden's allegations lend credence to China's longstanding position that it is as much a victim of hacking as a perpetrator, after Obama pressed Xi to rein in cyber-espionage by the Chinese military.

Tens of thousands of Snowden’s supporters have signed a petition calling for his pardon in the United States while many have donated money to a fund to help him.

“I’m very grateful for the support of the public,” he said. “But I ask that they act in their interest – save their money for letters to the government that breaks the law and claims it noble.

“The reality is that I have acted at great personal risk to help the public of the world, regardless of whether that public is American, European, or Asian.”

The US consulate in Hong Kong could not be contacted yesterday on a public holiday.

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This article is now closed to comments

ablewang
We know all along that US is the biggest cyber thief.
tkruemmer
In the name of fighting terrorism a new McCartyism has broken out. The very institutions that are to protect our civil rights are ignoring these rights, at home and abroad. Prism mirrors the European Echelon, an equally violent violation of civil rights. Successful terrorists will probably not rely on the internet, rendering all these expensive and unlawful exercises useless.
steve.meadows.7777
All the warnings from the US about 'cyber-terrorism' and the US is the biggest cyber-terrorist.
hilaryj
USA has spied on us, hacked our networks, at the same time as they lock up kids and destroy their lives for doing the same thing. Talk about hypocritical. USA wouldn't allow extradition to China if the situations were reversed; they would babble on about freedom, truth, justice and the American way. But they see us as a valid surveillance and hacking target now... think about that for a while. Friends don't hack your Internet Exchanges. They are no longer our friends.
Also explains why the USA want Chinese hardware banned from all computer shops... at best the Chinese hardware might interfere with, or detect American hacking, at worst, they're afraid the Chinese will do the same thing they have been doing for years.
Given how the USA has treated Bradley Manning, I think we can safely say if they get their hands on Snowden it won't be fair, open or just. Any extradition should be vetoed on human rights grounds. But Snowden is braver than I am... more power to you, sir.
aplucky1
omg
these guys have been taping the lines for how long now?
IT DOES NOT WORK
can you say boston bombing
they use this data for political purposes , do not use that lame terrorist c r a p angle
they probably also will use it for IRS nasty purposes
you cannot be that naive to believe it is used to protect anyone
secrets
Edward Snowden is a hero. He was willing to give up everything to reveal the truth in America. It's a testament to how hypocritical the American government is. If Edward Snowden was really a traitor, or wanted to harm the U.S, he would just take down the NSA's network, reveal information about bases and their missions. Doing something like this proves that he is not against the government itself, but rather, the wrongdoings of the government.
hgao@vip.sina.com
His point is US is no different from China.
chanaa
dont kid ourselves, this happens everywhere. What i cant stand is US govt hyprocrisy, be it greenhouse, human rights or this. They just dont practice what they preach, worse off lecture the world. Without US citizens sense of justice & freedom keep them in check, the US govt would be running hitler like operations.
my questn to Ed is why now ?
charles_knause
What Ed Snowden's personal commitment to the rule of law has shown is that not only is there a massive ongoing spy operation aimed at US citizens in violation of the US Constitution & Bill of Rights; there is an ongoing cyber war being conducted against the rest of the world and in particular China.
Its interesting that the article notes that the cyber war being waged against China did not involve ops against military sites and infrastructure but rather university research center and other such civilian sites. The logical conclusion that can be drawn from such demonstrable intrusions is that Booz Allen Hamilton and other private intel corporations are in the process of using such cyber intrusions to gain proprietary secrets and knowledge that can be sold so as to give US multinationals a competitive commercial advantage over European and Asian firms in the struggle for global sales and market penetration.
This should serve as the basis for a formal complaint to not only the World Court but to the World Trade Organization as well. The gross hypocracy in regard to US complaints regarding China's hacking is now on display for all the world to see. Once again we can see that the emperor has no clothes.
As far as the US and Israeli cyber attacks on the Iranian military infrastructure, according to international law this was an act of war and should be condemned and dealt with accordingly.
alexchankc
“I’m neither traitor nor hero. I’m an American,” says Snowden. Isn't it inspirational to us..
Can we Hong Kong Chinese say the same.. like I am a Chinese although I don't like the CPP or the National Govt"? Can we in HK restore our common sense and put the end to this silly debate. I don't see any conflict in the phrase, "Love China & love Hong Kong"...
Good luck Mr Snowden. and thanks for your courage and show us what the real World is like.

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