• Fri
  • Sep 19, 2014
  • Updated: 10:53pm
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.


Related topics

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

IF YOU SEE SOMETHING SAY SOMETHING. Isn't this the slogan on all the buses and trains that i see in cities?
hard times !
Made in Thailand should be made in N.Korea or in Mainland China or Cuba or Vietnam instead.Right ? He has no sense what traitor/treason is ! If he is an American or non-American as most of us in Hong Kong are,he should welcome Edward Snowden's revelation that our internet and phone call communication have long been monitored by the secuirty organisations in the States on the excuse of national security after the Sept.11th Incident in 2001. Yet as Franklin once said,'if you seek security at the expanse of freedom, then in the end you will lose both freedom and security as well----just look at N.Korea and Mainland China's dissidents and activists ! Am I right ?
I don't know if that is a true statement. Of course we traded freedom for security after 9/11.... Would you welcome Mohammad Atta back into our country if we could resurrect him and have him talk freely with his cadre back in Afghanistan?
If you are Chinese or from Hong Kong, I am sure you quite aware of the snooping the government has always done there on its citizens and especially it foreign visitors.
If a foreigner wants to join a church that is not part of the state sanctioned 3Self church in China, then that foreigner will be followed as if he is a revolutionary Thomas Paine amassing followers and scheming to topple the CCP.
In China there are 2 paradigms...... Rich vs Poor and Strong vs. Weak.
In China there are 2 Circles..... The inner circle of family and close friends where the golden rule of "love your neighbor like you love yourself applies" and the outer circle where everyone else exists and it is morally permissible to gain at the expense and misery of this group. Look at Bo Xilai's wife. Look at Mao, look at all of the princelings from the CCP. Even Xi JingPing is a princeling with amassed wealth and unjust privileged access to anything he wants for his family or himself.
hard times !
I am afraid now that this Snowden is being tracked down by the CIA and FBI or NSA as well plus Beijing's National Security Bureau guys and our Security Bureau men for his whereabouts.Wish him good luck since he might be forced to go back to the States either through a kidnapping or ...He is really in great danger.Our SAR administration has the obligation to guarantee since his identity is still a visitor to the territory.Right ?
To Edward Snowden: I bet you have heard the classic rock song, Hold Your Head Up, recorded by the group, Argent, in 1972. If I ever heard a piece of music that fits what you are doing now, Ed...it's that song. I can just picture the group singing that song, proudly when they march this Saturday. And then there's good ol' Tom Petty's standard, Won't Back Down. The final favorite that brings me back to your efforts is Revolution by The Beatles.
What I am trying to say, Ed, my friend, is that your actions are bringing the world back to 1967.
And this time around...it's up to us all to bring back the freedom, rights and respect that we all should have.
I didn't buy one word that came out of that NSA-version of Mr. Rogers, yesterday. That clown dressed up like Captain Kangaroo and spewed verbal balderdash all over the Senate floor. Yeah, it was really something to watch that guy chew on his own lies like they were a bad pieces of gristle!
You have the power in your hands, now, Ed. Use it bravely. Thank you for telling the truth. Your Sister in the fight--Ruthie the Hitchhiker.
What's wrong with Singapore, or the old favourite US runaway havens - Mexico and Canada? Why do we have to foot the bill for this shenanigans? Why do we have watch CY being interviewed in the US? We thought we'd got shot of him for a few days and now he's no commenting us from across the Pacific. US Gov't, either you come and get your 'spy hero' or we won't accept CY back. You can keep him!
I don't understand what he thinks he is going to get out of this? He is clearly not thinking this through. Thnink Johnathan Pollard, who still sits in solitary in Federal Prison. I guess its fair to say that all countries have their secrets and if they entrust you with them and you run to your countries enemies, you shoudl expect that they will at least want to stop you from further damage. That said, he has no evidence, as the type of classified information he says he knows, woudl require all kinds of failsafe security checks to get through. The Wikileaks scandal showed some holes that were probably covered up. That said, I maybe he is looking to go to North Korea so he can have access to the Pleasure Brigade.,,
time for a slap to those Blind western lap dogs in HK........
Oooo I thought HK freedom's are deteriorating an its a big spot on the American gov't "worry" radar, well turns out that big spot its DC and not HK.
As opposed to the surveillance by your masters from the Prince of Wales building in Admiralty? The one surrounded in scaffolding and green wrap for months at a clip? Like we don't know your employer is spying on us here? For the US, HK is small potatoes. For your employers, keeping us under control is crucial to how they address Taiwan. Good diversion though, Henny. Have a happy Mao Celebration.




SCMP.com Account